SantaCon Seoul 2013

Last weekend myself and about 8 friends from Paju attended SantaCon in Seoul, which is a gathering of 100’s of people all dressed as Santa Claus, his elves and everything in between parading around Seoul’s nightlife district singing Christmas Carols and simply being merry.

I ordered 3 elf costumes off ebay and was delighted when they arrived just in time. I also got creative with some fairy lights, colored paper and a giant piece of black foam and made myself a YouTube video / photo booth which I must say I was fairly proud of!

Sadly I didnt take as many pictures as I would have liked  (cause I was having too much fun!) but here is a quick glimpse of the shenanigans had on the night.

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FREE HUGS SEOUL

I have now lived in a country for over 4 months and have not participated in a FREE HUGS day. This is a new record for me. What in the world is FREE HUGS I hear you non believers ask? Well you can read the full story here but let me give you a little summary.

The FREE HUGS campaign was started by Aussie native Juan Mann (a pretty fitting name, I’m sure you will agree) a few years ago. He wanted to share the love and spread happiness to strangers simply by giving out hugs to people on the street. It sounds a little strange, sure, and a lot of people say “but of COURSE hugs are free , who in their right mind would PAY for a hug” but this strange concept has made its was around the world to every city large and small and has brightened up millions of people’s lives.

The man who started it all

Spread the love

How do I know this? Well it has brightened up my day on a number of occasions and has even spurred me on to give out other things for free such as 500 hand-made cards on Valentines day. Giving out the free hugs is ten times as rewarding as actually getting one. Seeing strangers run up to you with a big grin, then embracing them in a big bear hug is something very special. It will make you smile, laugh and maybe even cry. I can remember hugging one old woman in Dublin who said she had not been hugged in years. This is a very sad thought as everyone should be hugged, in my opinion, every day.

My first free hugs experience was at a couchsurfing event in Edinburgh, Scotland. The weekend, dubbed “Edinburgh Rocks” included a world music night, bbq, scavenger hunt and game sin the park. Then on the final day I was told we were doing “Free Hugs”. I was totally new to the idea, laughed at the idea of it but was excited to see how it would pan out. To this day it is one of the best, most rewarding, most memorable few hours of my life. It helped that the 40 or so other couchsurfers were full of positive energy and love for life and that Scots loved receiving our hugs.

Free Hugs in Edinburgh

Valentines Day, Dublin Free Hugs

After such an awesome experience I organized a FREE HUGS day in Dublin, the first of many followed by “Free Hugs for Christmas”, “Free Hugs for Valentines Day” and “Free Hugs in the park”…all a great success. The next summer, while in Toronto I jumped at the chance to give out free hugs at “Pedestrian Sunday” in Kensington Market and a few weeks later found myself standing outside DEMF, Detroit Electronic Music festival giving out hugs to party goers and homeless people alike. Lastly, I had the opportunity to give out free hugs in Hyde Park in Sydney earlier this year, another awesome day out.

So now Korea, my love, its your turn. I’m interested to see people’s reactions and I really hope they wont be too stand offish as I realize hugging culture is not as big in Asia as it is in say Europe or America. So, if you fancy spreading some joy come along to FREE HUGS HONGDAE this saturday! :)

Free Hugs Toronto

Free Hugs...coming to a place near you!

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Diversity is the spice of life

Some Kimchi with your Turkey, Ajamma? Another cocktail or an Ice-cream Miss Clause? Some more fish stew with that Injera, Miss? With Christmas just around the corner, I am suddenly left reminiscing about all the other Christmas’ spent abroad in distant lands, far removed from the traditional Irish Christmas day.

This year, as many of you know, I will be spending my favourite holiday of the year in South Korea, a country that I have grown to love. Despite this fact, the sad reality is that Koreans don’t really celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense so  I will have to compromise, settling for a roast Chicken from a street vendor rather than the traditional Turkey, time spent with friends instead of family and rocking around a Karaoke room rather than the Christmas tree!

South Korean Christmas;all about the kids

Christmas entertainment in Korea, mainly aimed and Children and Lovers

All my years of travelling have taught me that just because something is different to what you have been brought up with does not make it worse. As the saying goes “Diversity os the Spice of life”. This goes for everything; from people, to countries, to food, to how people celebrate holidays around the world.

Last year I spent Christmas day on Bondi Beach. clichéd? Yes. But also an absolutely unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Tens of 1000’s of bikini clad backpackers, chilling out with newly made friends, sipping cheap wine out of a box and breaking it down at Bondi Pavillion at Sunburnt Christmas Djs, renowned worldwide. There may not be Turkey, or presents or family, but there will be wet t-shirt competitions, beautiful sunshine, beer for breakfast and friends you will have forever. Also, the sight of a sea of red and white on one of the most famous beaches on earth is truly something special.

Nice View, Christmas Day on Bondi Beach, Australia

Fun in the Sun on Bondi beach

Three years ago, I spent a summer backpacking across Ethiopia. It was not planned, (my flights were booked 3 days before leaving) but it was one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life thus far. Not many people go on holidays to Ethiopia. It’s not exactly the “in” place to spend your summer vacation. In fact, truth be told, I don’t know ANYONE else that has ever randomly decided to go backpacking through one of the poorest countries on Earth, but that’s the exact reason I wanted to go.

What I didn’t realise was that Ethiopia uses a completely different calendar to most of the western world. They still use the Julian calender, and so, are exactly 7 1/2 year behind our Gregorian calender. Confused yet? I was! So as I was trekking up through the Bale mountains in rural Southern Ethiopia, with an awful stomach ache and fever (which later turned out to be a mild case of Dengue Fever) I noticed the date on my bus ticket. 25/12/1999.

 There I was puking my guts out in some adorable little mountain hut, while two child shepherds looked on in bewilderment, as I was treated my a local medicine man who insisted I rub some sort of red flower all over my face then eat it, whilst on the inside thinking “I can’t believe this is where I am on Christmas Day.” And also feeling slightly disoriented at the fact that I had somehow travelled back in time to the Nineties!!

So my friends, family and readers, wherever you ar this Christmas, whether you are celebrating in a traditional way or not, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Thanks for reading! x

My Saviour, local medicine man

A beautiful child Shepherd, looking at me cautiously, Christmas day 1999

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