A Christmas miracle… with kimchi

Justine Toh reflects on this feel-good Christmas story about community, Kimchi, fate, and unexpected grace.

Friday, Dec 23, 2022: A couple in Buffalo, New York, answered a knock at the door to find 10 stranded Korean tourists asking to borrow a shovel to dig out their passenger van from a ditch. 

But “the Darth Vader of storms” – as described by the homeowner, Alexander Campagna – was bearing down, bringing snow a metre deep, whipped up by 100km winds.  

So, he and his wife Andrea invited everyone in, becoming “accidental innkeepers” in the process. In the original Christmas story, there was no place except the manger for Jesus to be born. There wasn’t much room at the Campagnas’, but everyone made do. 

Over the weekend, they hung out, swapped stories (three of the tour group spoke English), watched American football on Christmas Eve, and cooked.  

The travellers had lucked out: the Campagnas were wild for Korean food and their pantry was stocked with mirin, gochujang, sesame oil, chilli flakes. The sight of a rice cooker sealed the deal: they officially felt at home.  

This feel-good story of Christmas hospitality went viral, a welcome reprieve from the seemingly endless stream of bad news. Soon, cards and presents arrived by mail.  

The Campagnas’ kindness had inspired other gifts. A Korean barbeque chain shouted the couple a year of free fried chicken. This past May, they enjoyed an all-expenses paid trip to Korea and were reunited with the (still grateful) then-tourists.  

Maybe the story is a one-off flash of felicity. I see it as an act of grace, of unexpected, and unexpectedly lavish, kindness. None of the good needed to happen and yet it did anyway, with grace piled upon grace. 

Fate brought us to the Campagnas’ door, the travellers have since said. But the multiplying effects of grace? For believers, a dead giveaway that God was all over it. 

Topics & People in this post


All the hallmarks of Christmas

Natasha Moore watches a Hallmark Christmas Movie – and compares it to the first Christmas story.