I love Christmas and I always have since my very first Christmas in America. I was 4 years old and it’s the first one I remember at all anyway. All my Christmases up until then had been in Korea.
In Korea my life was nothing like the brights lights and sparkle of New York City during Christmas. There’s nothing like it. I’ve never spent Christmas Day anywhere else but Seoul then New York, and now Ghent.
Three very different eras of my life if I can even call them eras at my age…
Seoul: It was just me and my father’s mother in Seoul. She was my family and I was hers. I’m told we had very nice Christmases with money my parents sent from New York for 3 years.
New York: All of a sudden in New York I had a new life and new family…my mother’s side of the family and it was a large family.
(I grew up in a pretty big family as did my husband Davy. We all know…the bigger the family, the bigger – proportionately – the number of crazy aunts and uncles and in-laws and cousins galore. It’s one of the things that make Davy and me stronger. Our understanding of completely crazies in the bloodline.)
My family was dysfunctional just like many other Korean and non-Korean families everywhere and our Christmases were always a zoo. My entire extended family always crammed into my grandparent’s 3-bedroom apartment in Masaryk Towers on the Lower East Side, and it was always complete chaos. Once more grandkids, other than me and my brother, started being born in the family my grandparents’ place was pretty much a fire hazard because you just never knew what half the kids were up to. Probably very much like your family except nobody’s threatening in Korean to spank anyone. Or maybe they are. Maybe it’s in English or Spanish on your Christmas Day. But for me, Christmas Day really was like a Chevy Chase movie except with three types of kimchi present at all times and chopsticks and lots of respectful bowing to elders and praying before we ate anything.
My grandmother was notorious for the longest prayers ever and she always got to pray for all the major family meals which me and the rest of her grandkids hated. Especially on Christmas! All the adults dreaded it too but they pretended to be pious through the whole prayer.
As my grandmother got older her prayers got longer because she kept repeating things and forgetting her grandkids’ names or keeping track of whom she’d blessed or didn’t.
As we grandkids matured we stopped laughing and giggling at grandma’s long prayers as we noticed her memory failing then Alzheimer’s getting bad.
Christmas Day became less about the grandkids and more about grandma in recent years. We always made her laugh as much as we could because when my grandmother laughs nothing else matters. Alzheimer’s didn’t stop her from laughing then, or now when I Skype with her. Our family always laughed a lot on Christmas Day and other days because of my grandmother or grandfather or one of the grandkids. It was always chaos…you can ask anyone in my family.
Ghent: I married into a family in Belgium that laughs and laughs and laughs. For me it’s a new country and new marriage and new family of my own. Davy and I strive to raise Noah so he’s aware of all his roots near and far. Noah thought our Christmas tree was magical too, until he figured out where the switch to the lights were and fast. Now each morning he yells “On! On!” and the lights go on, on our Christmas tree:
By the way, I brought some of that Christmas chaos with me here to Ghent and it started this morning as I failed to find regular white marshmallows anywhere. Apparently in Belgium, marshmallows are a “summer treat” and therefore not carried in stores or supermarkets during other seasons. What?!
It was getting so chaotic that we decided to go pick up Noah from daycare looking like Christmas.
Noah seemed genuinely confused and then pleased to see us looking all Christmas.
Oh and I have to go now and be Ms. Chaos because we’re hosting Christmas Eve Dinner in our home for eleven adults and one Noah, in roughly 24 hours.
How’s that for a Chaotic Christmas Blog?