#276 Steve and Alex - Christmas
Steve: Hi Alex.
Alex: Hi Steve.
Steve: Listen; you know what we're going to talk about today?
Alex: What are we going to talk about?
Steve: We're going to talk about the season.
Steve: What season is it?
Alex: It's Christmas.
Steve: It's Christmas. First of all, Christmas is, I guess, more of a family event versus New Year is more of a party, go out with your friends event, right?
Alex: I find that is the case. It depends on the country really. In Korea it's not at all that case; whereas, Christmas is not really a big holiday, it's mostly between couples, but in North America, for the most part, Christmas is a very family-oriented holiday.
Steve: I should comment that Alex is our resident Korean, right? So, yeah…
Not Korean by race…
Alex: …but simply by affiliation, we'll call it.
Steve: Yeah, so family. So have you already bought all your presents for your family members?
Alex: I have purchased them all. I have one left to pick up, but the rest are either hiding somewhere in the house or somewhere at the store.
Steve: Okay. Are you one of these people who start buying Christmas presents six months ahead of time, who's very well organized and prepared?
Alex: To a degree. Fifty percent yes, 50% no. Some of the gifts I bought late October early November, but that was mostly because I knew what I wanted to get for that specific person. I had to wait for that item to appear on the shelves, but the other things sometimes it's last minute. Sometimes it's ahead of time, it really depends.
Steve: I must admit that I start thinking about Christmas some time in December; the latter half of December.
Steve: Unless I see something earlier in the year that, you know, I think oh that would be good for that person and then I might buy it, but normally I don't even focus on Christmas until we're pretty close.
Alex: So have you bought all your presents then?
Steve: I've bought some and my wife has bought some. You know we have family in London as well, Eric and his family. So there we gave them some things and also gave some money to Eric to go out and buy gifts for the kids, because it costs a fortune to ship gifts.
Alex: It does.
Steve: It's ridiculous.
Alex: It's really expensive, yeah.
Steve: I mean you ship something it's going to cost more than actually the gift, so we're not doing that.
Alex: Yeah, I've found that to be the case. Actually at LingQ we just sold a microphone maybe two months ago via PayPal to a guy in Australia and it was only about a pound, a little over a pound and it was $35 to send the microphone.
Steve: Did you send it?
Alex: We did, but he paid for it.
Alex: It was on PayPal.
Steve: I mean can't he buy a microphone in Australia? That's ridiculous.
Steve: That's ridiculous.
Alex: Well, we were offering a special deal.
Now, the other thing of course around this time of year… Oh, one other thing that's interesting is we, of course, offered a special Christmas offer at LingQ, right?
Steve: So one person on the forum commented, you know. And this person I think is quite Christian and commented on how we, you know… I'm not, you know, Christian and I'm not particularly a believer in religion either. I hope we don't lose all our…
Alex: Well, we're all free to express what we believe.
Steve: We're all free to believe what we believe.
Steve: And so she felt it was surprising that we would offer a Christmas offer if we're not, you know, big believers in sort of Christianity or whatever. I think Christmas has become like Chinese New Year. You don't have to be Chinese to celebrate Chinese New Year and go eat whatever they eat, you know?
Steve: There are a number of these festivals that have become a bit international and have lost their original religious or cultural meaning, in my view.
Steve: And so even in Japan Christmas is celebrated. You hear Christmas music and people buy presents.
Steve: There are some Christians.
Steve: There are some Christians in Japan, but not as many as Korea, for example.
Alex: Very few in Japan, actually.
Steve: Very few, yeah. In Korea it's like 40% of the population.
Alex: Thirty-40, yeah.
Steve: Thirty, yeah.
Alex: It's quite a bit. It's a large chunk of the people.
Alex: But, yeah. I mean we discussed this too and it was one of those things where we're a North American-based company and, you know, Christmas is the holiday that most people here celebrate so we chose Christmas.
Alex: Christmas is really what this time of year is all based around in North America and so operating out of that, you know, it's no intention to offend people or exclude people or anything like that. It's not promoting any religious background either.
Steve: Well, that's right. The other thing about Christmas is, especially in the northern hemisphere, I mean we need Christmas because it starts to get dark and cold and there's snow. So if we can turn all this snow and everything into something pleasant I mean it helps get us through the darkest time of year.
And, of course, it's often explained that a lot of the traditions around Christmas actually come from these pagan traditions that are related to the fact that this is the darkest time of year. And so there were all kinds of, you know, whatever they were, primitive people in the forest would light fires to encourage the sun to come back because the sun was…
Alex: How interesting.
Steve: Yeah, yeah. And, of course, the early Christian people promoting the Christian religion in Europe were very keen to tie, you know, the pagan traditions to Christianity in order to encourage people to convert. So there's quite a mixture of Roman traditions.
In fact, we don't want to get into this, but there are a lot of traditions in Middle Eastern religion that are common to a lot of them and there were religions or sects that talked about a virgin giving birth to a child and stuff like that before Christianity. So, I mean, as with all cultural things, nobody invents them out of a vacuum.
Steve: All of these things come as sort of an amalgam of all kinds of different influences and so forth and so on. So we're left with a somewhat commercial Christmas, which does make a lot of people, especially kids, very happy around this time of year.
I think that's the goal. You know our goal is not to, like we said, offend or exclude anyone.
Alex: It's to simply bring a joyous time of year.
Alex: It's the time where people are really looking for stuff for their loved ones. It's more than anything an excuse to really buy people something to show your appreciation and your affection for them.
Steve: Well, it's an excuse for a family event and we all remember Christmases when we were kids around the dinner table and the tree and all these kinds of things. I think we need these kinds of things. It brings people together.
Steve: It brings people together. I was in Italy and then we were briefly in Switzerland and then in Munich and of course the further north you go the more Christmassy these things are.
Steve: Although, I must say, we were in Salerno near Naples and they had their Christmas lights out. I mean the streets were just full of people.
Steve: Full of people. But the decorations in St. Gallen in Switzerland and in Munich were spectacular, so, yeah, all around the world. Although, I think the Russians have a different day or something for theirs.
Alex: Oh, do they?
Steve: I think so. I'm not sure. I'm not sure how it all works. It's similar, but…
So, then, what are you going to do during the holidays?
Alex: Well, what I normally do is spend time with my family, kind of just get together. We have our Christmas traditions, just like everyone, so we'll do that and I think kind of just relax. You know it's really a time of year when you get to wind down and prepare yourself for the New Year. You can set, of course, New Year's resolutions and stuff like that, which some people adhere to and most don't.
Alex: But I think more than anything it's a good time to kind of reflect upon the year, not have so many responsibilities that you need to take care of, but just take time away, step back a bit and reevaluate and then, based on that, you know, leap forward into another productive year.
Steve: And, of course, eat a lot.
Alex: Of course.
Steve: That's the other danger during this season.
Alex: It is.
Steve: Of course the mothers and the wives and so forth, mainly, or the husbands, whatever, we don't want to be sexist about this, they outdo themselves in preparing food and cooking and baking cakes and cookies and so you end up putting on a few pounds over the period.
Steve: Are you going away anywhere?
Alex: No, I'm actually going to be here in Vancouver, but the thing is that my family lives in Vancouver as well. So there's really no reason to travel outside unless we're specifically going to another location for traveling or something like that. So I'll probably be here. I don't think I'll go to the mountains yet. I plan on going maybe in January or February.
But what we did do, turkey is a big thing here of course.
Alex: There's this knowledge of Thanksgiving being the turkey holiday, but in fact Christmas is as well. Now there are Christmas hams.
Alex: But we don't normally eat ham, we normally eat turkey as well. A friend of my moms actually runs a farm a bit east of here in a place called Aldergrove and she has been raising turkeys, along with all sorts of other animals, horses and pigs and chickens and she offered to sell us one of the turkeys. It was actually really cheap. It was about $30 for a 25 pound turkey, which normally you'd pay $70-$80 for something that size.
Alex: You know this is naturally raised and all that kind of stuff, which is especially nice, but it also means that we're going to have a lot of leftover turkey. So I think the period between Christmas and New Year's we'll probably be eating turkey sandwiches and turkey soup and all sorts of other concoctions.
Steve: You know it is surprising how cheap turkeys are in the United States. Have you ever looked at the price of turkey in the U.S. Alex: I lived in the United States for six years.
I mean turkeys there are like a third.
Steve: It's just ridiculous.
Alex: I know. It is.
Steve: Five dollars, you know?
Steve: It's amazing.
Alex: It is.
Steve: It's amazing.
I don't know what they do with their turkeys over there.
Alex: They cram them into a small pen and feed them.
Steve: Well, that's right. They're not range fed, you know?
Steve: Well, I know. When people complain about, you know, fish farming or something they should go and look at a chicken farm and see how the poor chickens are treated.
Alex: I know, yeah.
Steve: Anyway, we'll get off that subject.
Of course I have one son who lives in London, but Mark, of course, lives here. He has three kids and so he and his wife and kids and my wife and I we often go skiing up to Big White, which is about five hours by car from here. We have to drive over the mountains. We hope we don't run into a blizzard as we go through the Coquihalla Pass there. And that's very nice because it's not as glitzy as Whistler and basically all of the accommodation is on the hill.
Alex: Oh, okay.
Steve: So it's what we call ‘ski in, ski out'. So we get up in the morning, have a little breakfast, put our skis on at the door and we're on the hill.
Steve: All the accommodation is spread out all over the hill and one of the nice things is, you know, for lunch you don't have to go to the restaurant where it's all steamy and lined up to, you know, get food and lined up to go to the bathroom. You just go back to the house. It's just on your run. You just ski in there. Even if you need to go to the bathroom while you're skiing, you just go in there, go to the bathroom, put your skis back on and away you go.
Steve: You take your boots off too, of course.
Steve: So it's really nice. They don't have the fancy restaurants that Whistler has, but as a family ski area. They've got downhill skiing and they have a great big open-air rink.
Alex: Oh, really?
Steve: Yeah and all kinds of people come and like there's two or three hockey games going in different directions. Three generations, you know, Mark, me and, of course, my grandson; tobogganing and there's all kinds of stuff.
Alex: That's cool.
Steve: So it's really nice. It's a real winter, you know, family winter resort.
Alex: I've never been to Whistler. Whistler, for those of you who may not know, is one of the mountains, probably the most popular mountain, in maybe North America.
Steve: Well, I wouldn't necessarily say most popular because I think there are areas that are closer to large centers, but it has the distinction of having the longest vertical drop.
Steve: The difference from the top of the mountain to the bottom to the village is greater than any other mountain in North America. So it's very steep and they have very long runs and steeper than Europe, too, because by enlarge in Europe the runs are not as long as they are in North America.
Alex: Oh, really.
It's quite a good ski area.
Alex: Okay. And Whistler was one of the mountains that they used for the Winter Olympics as well.
Steve: Yeah, that's right.
Alex: But, as Steve says, Winter Olympics results in a lot of tourists and a lot of attention drawn to Whistler.
Alex: So Whistler is one of those places where everything is five times as much as it would be normally.
Steve: Lots, yeah.
Alex: It's a tourist attraction.
Steve: It's a tourist attraction, lots of good restaurants and stuff like that, five star hotels. It's a jet set destination ski resort, which is fine.
Steve: Yeah, so that's it. So we're going to take it easy, eat turkey, do some skiing, buy some presents, maybe even receive the odd present.
Steve: That will be our Christmas.
Alex: Sounds good.
Steve: So I guess we should, regardless of where people are, wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Alex: Yes, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. Thanks for listening.
Steve: Absolutely. Thank you for listening.