“Fah Who foraze, Dah Who doraze /
Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer”
This Saturday, our little home here turned into some sort of wacky version of Whoville when we hosted our first gathering here in Ulsan. We invited friends over for the now-traditional Tacky Sweater Party that seems to gaining popularity each year back in the States.
I had seen several Christmas sweaters around the stores here in Ulsan, and knew this would ironically be the perfect opportunity to have such a party. Koreans typically make outstanding fashion choices, but when it comes to Christmas, things tend to get a little silly around here. There is a large enough demand for Christmas-themed clothing, including tacky headbands with Santa springs and tacky-sweater patterned slippers. Both were an absolutely necessary purchase for me for this party, and our visitors were kind enough to play along.
To prepare for the party, I headed to Costco to feed the masses. I whipped up some candy-cane topped brownies but had a Pinterest fail, big time. One recipe said to put crushed candy cane pieces into the batter of the brownies by layering, but what they failed to mention is that it is best to wait until the brownies are about 60 seconds away from being done, pull them out, then put more candy cane pieces on top and finish baking. Otherwise you’ll end up with a sunken mess of dessert that is too dangerous to let anyone eat should they break their tooth and then need serious dental work.
The Pinterest fail was quickly replaced by the appropriate method of candy cane topping, and then I got dear J in on the action with a team project: puppy chow. If you don’t know, chocolate and peanut butter are perhaps my two favorite food groups. Oh, yeah, I meant foods. Accordingly, I was determined to make the party that much more festive by whipping up everyone’s favorite holiday snack. Forget that chocolate chips cost $7 a bag and a jar of peanut butter was $6. Forget that I had to purchase 4 tiny bags of “sugar powder” in order to get enough for this recipe. It was all worth the sugary goodness that resulted and the excited eyes of our guests upon picking up a cupcake liner full of yumminess.
Prepping the most important party item: puppy chow. Minnie says, “is that for me?”
If you haven’t heard, our sea shipment still hasn’t made its way to our apartment. It is supposedly in-country at this point in time, but it wasn’t quick enough to provide the small 2.5 foot Christmas tree we bought from Home Depot before we left. I was, however, smart enough to pack quite a few decorations in our air shipment, like the table runner I made last year and our fabulous, enormous stockings sewn by my mom. I added to the fun by using my Christmas tree fabric from Dongdaemun under our coffee table glass, and a couple of purchases from Home Plus: a live poinsettia and $2 styrofoam glitter Christmas tree with legitimate ornaments.
The only thing better than tacky Christmas decorations was the amazing handcrafted wreath that one of our guests, Jake, brought with him as a host(ess) gift. I won’t go into detail as to exactly how this amazingness came to be in the event that the Korean government is reading this post, but Jake even soaked some of it in mint-scented essential oils and our home still smells freakin’ fantastic. He even brought a door hook with him so we could hang it up. I don’t mean to offend anyone (here’s looking at you, J… and Mom), but this may honestly be one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.
I never thought we’d have a live wreath for Christmas in Korea, but somebody cool made this happen.
With guests arrived and the party well under way, we served plenty of Christmas cheer before deciding it was time to vote “Tackiest Sweater in Ulsan”. The award went to Chris, who wore a red and white turtleneck that drew some… let’s say, interesting comments from the group. Honorable mention went to Jason with his awesome green pants and bowtie, Joel for his tacky sweater vest over a t-shirt with Christmas lights, and Jake who wore a sweater with a giant embroidered lion.
The gang’s all here! I even managed to jump in the last one.
Surprise, surprise, even Murray got an honorable mention with one vote in the pool! Our friend Erica came with some fantastic antlers on her head, with which Murray was utterly fascinated. I had a pair of light up antlers – come on, who doesn’t keep a spare pair of those? – so we plopped the furry thing on his head and astonishingly he didn’t try to take them off for a solid 15 minutes! He was a hit at the party and we had lots of comments about how well-behaved our dear pups are. If only they had to walk them at 5:30 AM every day!
Does this look like a scene from the Grinch, anyone? Murray and his new reindeer friend!
Awards complete, we headed out to show off our outfits to the good people of Ulsan. Our first stop was at a bar called, I kid you not, Hakuna Matata. The staff passed out a few fun headbands that lit up, which of course excited our tacky group. We took turns talking about ridiculous things to do that evening, which ended up with one of us, name withheld, on the floor doing his personal rendition of the Harlem Shake. Really, it was more like a sideways version of the worm.
Christmas cheer was on the rise, so of course the next adventure of the night took us to the beach where it was obvious that we needed to light off fireworks. There is a fireworks street vendor right on the beach, and some of the group invested a good bit of won into making a small show for the rest of us to enjoy. The fireworks guy offered to let us borrow his handheld blow torch, and we happily obliged, watching the sparkling sky. I even hit the beach in my tacky slippers (of course I wore them to the bars!) that matched my tacky sweater.
Fireworks show in my slippers on the beach and the plethora of lights through the evening.
Although we’re missing our dear friends and family back home, this holiday season is literally taking us to places (and situations) we’ve never been. It’s been a great one so far! Back to Misters Buble, Sinatra, and Crosby. Christmas cheers!