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Last Saturday we decided to head down to the New Core Department store and get ourselves into the holiday spirit.

Christmas time - at least the commercial aspect of things - has only been slightly different from back home. They still put up decorations in the stores to the sound of Christmas music piped in through the sound system, and it`s even starting to get colder. Today it was only 2° here while I look back at Kitchener-Waterloo and see that it is currently 14°!

We don`t have any snow here, and we have been warned that there likely won`t be any on the way until January - as the precipitation here dwindles in the fall months. We`ve been downloading a bunch of Christmas songs and Movies and the iPod has been filling up with some of our favorites, that seem to be on an endless repeat. Being over here has proved that the sights and sounds of Christmas are still everywhere.

So when we found the Christmas section at the New Core Department store, the first thing we did was to walk over to the selection of Christmas trees, to pick out the best one our budget could afford. 29,000 won (or $35.00) got us a 4 foot beauty! Add to that a string of lights, ribbons, and red and gold balls and we had spent a good $55.00!

Our tradition for the previous 2 years had been to go to the Benjamin tree farm with our friends Brad and Julie. We would walk around in the snow for a good half hour (usually to the far end of the property) cut down the mightiest trees in the place (or the ones that would fit best in our living rooms) and carry them back to Brad`s truck. We really miss not being able to to that this year, as this year`s trip to the store was hardly as glamorous, but it did the trick.

The packaging and the size may change but the spirit is still there.
(Left) 2005 - Chris and Brad carrying the spoils of a trip to the Benjamin tree farm.
(Right) 2006 - We had to settle for a pre-fab fake tree this year.

So after carrying all of our Christmas decorations home, up went our tree and within the hour our house was filled with the cheep glow that only a string of white lights can provide.

Christmas is a very musical time for both of us, as we write these Twelve Blogs of Christmas we will focus on some of the songs that really drive home the Christmas spirit for us.

The song that has been in our heads most this week has been Joni Mitchell`s River. Sarah McLauchlan also does a nice cover of it on her new Christmas compilation: Wintersong. It`s likely the words that are the most fitting, as we sit here in South Korea with the sound of Christmas music, playing in our apartment that mixes with the sounds of Korean street merchants advertising their goods over loudspeakers and army helicopters occasionally flying over our apartment. Perhaps the first two stanzas of the song are the most poingant:


It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

But it don't snow here
It stays pretty green
I'm going to make a lot of money
Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

Joni Mitchell