(A variant on a piece posted here in December 2010.)
People are strange.
It’s in all the reports.
Because Christmas is first of all about a martyred Jewish mystic who was snapped up by Saul the Roman carny-barker and transformed into a weirdsmobile pagan sun-king, in which form he went luluing around Europe for the next 2000 years or so.
Later grafted onto the day was a Nordic fat man, who in one night flies supersonic reindeer round the globe, showering from a sleigh gifts to all and sundry, like some sort of holly-jolly communist.
None of this really says “Korean.”
And yet: there they are. Thinking it’s a good idea to dress up penguins like Santa Claus and reindeer, and then set them to marching in a parade, accompanied by a human Santa who wildly throws fake snow in the air.
These festivities inaugurate the annual “Christmas Fantasy” winter festival at the Everland Amusement Park in Yangin. The penguins promenade down a street decorated with some 2 million lights, 80 Christmas trees, and showers of artificial snow. There is also a holiday-themed fireworks show—hopefully set off only once the penguins, borrowed from the city zoo, have been returned to their usual quarters.
Everland, it is said, draws some 6 million visitors a year, and is the number-two most popular non-Disney theme park in the world.
“Everland” is presumably what you get when you knock the “N” off Neverland, and run Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, Peter Pan, and the Lost Boys off the place.
Generally I am not a fan of dressing animals in human clothing. Judging by the various photos out there on the intertubes, however, none of the birds really seem to mind. Then again, maybe I’m no good at reading penguins. After all, they do not live as you and I: these particular penguins, known as African or “jackass” penguins, prefer to dwell in homes they have burrowed out of bird guano.
Which is why they are endangered: money-grubbing humans arrived to haul all their guano away. Now they must make do with sand, and it’s just not the same.
Humans have also run off with their eggs, finding them tasty, and have meanwhile yanked all the sardine, anchovy, and squid out of the sea, leaving the birds with little to eat. Every once in a while an oil tanker will blow, or surreptitiously clean out its tanks while rounding the Horn, thereby drenching the birds with petroleum. Now seals have shown up, and are rudely pushing the birds off their 24 little islands.
These birds are called “jackass penguins” because they emit a distinctive braying noise. Reads to me like they have a lot to bray about. As the photo above shows, they’re not very big. Plucky, though.
I suppose the Everland penguin parade perhaps preferable to this earlier-featured Korean Christmas expression. Then again, maybe not.