Digitalis, the problem you experienced on Christmas Day is the classic symptom of attempting to charge your Kindle 2 with the "wrong" kind of USB charger. I had exactly the same problem on my first day of Kindle ownership. As you discovered, it is fixable.
I live in Luxembourg and in fact there are USB chargers in the shops here which do work with the Kindle 2. This is documented - with some technical explanations - in the thread
I've just found another USB mains charger which works in the local Darty under the brand "QDOS" - I'll post a picture in the other thread.
As we now have 2 Kindles (my wife got one for Christmas) we now have in the house 2 original Amazon chargers plus 2 third-party chargers which work fine, so we are not likely to find ourselves without a charger. But we both travel a lot so it was important for me to have some extra chargers to hand, preferably ones which also work for iPods, GPS etc.