12-10-2015 Journal– A Korean Christmas Story!   1 comment

thUWX6LB7U

I’ve talked a great deal over the years about my experiences while serving in the Army. As with any young man or woman serving outside of this country, being away from home and family during the Christmas season for the first time is difficult.  In my case I was not only away from family, I was in a non-Christian county that seemed to be more than a little primitive to me.

Their religion was primarily Buddhist and the Christmas holiday meant very little to them. They at times pretended to understand but that was motivated entirely by their desire to make money from visiting Americans.

At the time I was stationed in an area that was primarily populated by rice farmers living in small villages that dotted the northern countryside. There were no paved roads and most villages only had electric power for a few hours a day.  For those of us from the United States it was like traveling back in time a hundred years.

I was living almost full time in a local village and actually had my laundry taken to a local river where it was beaten on the rocks with wooded paddles and soap.  That certainly took some getting used to for me.  My Korean friends seemed totally befuddled by the entire Christmas holiday bro-ha-ha and sat silently as I tried to explain it to them. They were interested in my stories of Christ and the Magi, but the virgin birth story had them all silently giggling a little.

Regardless I was determined to have a Christmas celebration so I asked a few of my them for their help in putting up a Christmas tree.  They agreed to help but weren’t exactly sure what I was up to. As that project was progressing I had a little old mama-san ask me through an interpreter why would any sane person put a tree inside their home. I was hard pressed to answer her because I didn’t know the reason either. They continued to humor me as I explained other peculiarities that they couldn’t quite grasp.

thNTELBC6U

A week or so later with two Korean friends I hiked up a nearby mountain near a small Buddhist temple to find a tree. We ended up dragging back the sorriest looking bush you could ever imagine, set it up in my hooch, and started to decorate it as best we could. There was a hand-made star on top of the tree (my doing) and a number of pieces of charcoal tied to the branches with twine (their doing). I never had that fully explained to me but it was what they wanted to do. It had something to do with good luck or good pregnancy or something. Since we had no electricity they suggested placing candles in and around the tree but I nixed that immediately. The last thing we needed was to burn down my hooch and a portion of the village when a little, dry, and nasty looking tree, bust  into flames.

I had some GI decorations I made from C-rations that looked stupid as hell but they loved it. Later we ate most of the decorations and drank a bottle of really cheap brandy that I’d brought along for the occasion. I presented them each with a small gift of candy and got a little kiss on the cheek from everyone.

I was still a little homesick but that weird little celebration came to mean a lot to me over the years. It was cozy, friendly, and more than a little strange but it was also genuine. They forever became part of my extended family because they’d made an effort to help get me through a very difficult time. Christmas, the holiday, had very little meaning to them but they realized how important it was to me. 

I still wonder to this day if any of them have fond memories of that night and think about it occasionally. I also hope that all of my comrades-in-arms who are away from home this Christmas are lucky enough to find some friends like I did.

Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.

14 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT TIL THIS ONE

Advertisements

One response to “12-10-2015 Journal– A Korean Christmas Story!

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Good story, I hope our troops will be able to make some good memories this xmas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: