Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in Shanghai

China is not big on Christmas. While the department stores deck themselves out with trees, lights and bulbs, the majority of the population does not celebrate. I asked my students if they celebrate, and what they know about Christmas, and minus Santa, Jingle Bells, and the birth of Jesus, they did not know much at all. They've never seen Elf or Home Alone (gasp!), decked out a tree, decorated sugar cookies, taken part in a secret santa gift exchange, or sung Christmas carols. They have no idea what they are missing out on! The holidays definitely make me more homesick than usual, especially since none of that stuff goes on here. Store windows are decorated and Christmas songs blare from mall loudspeakers, but its just not the same. There's no bustling Christmas shoppers and there's just not that 'spirit' in the air of anticipation and celebrating family traditions. People do get together with their families, or if you're religious, go to church, but mostly it's just another day. Most of my coworkers and students used it as another day to catch up on work, some ate with family, or went out with friends.

Luckily, technology allows me to participate in the Christmas festivities even though I'm far from home. I spent a quiet weekend at my apartment (well-deserved after that huge party) doing laundry, cleaning, and just relaxing. Melody webcammed me in for some present-opening, and Wilson was a sweetie and skyped me into his family festivities. I made mashed potatoes (been craving them for ages) and pork chops and finished it off with some yummy chocolate cake. All in all, Christmas was not as brutally homesick-triggering as I thought it would be; in fact, spending it alone wasn't all that bad. It gave me time to think and appreciate all I have in life and the people who are important. Most Christmases are so hectic that you don't have time to stop and reflect on why it's really meaningful. It doesn't matter that I'm far away, because I'm lucky and grateful to have so many people who love me and whom I love in return. And Skype makes home feel not so far away anymore. Despite this, I am promised a second Christmas when I return home, complete with candy canes and gingerbread houses!

p.s. Four Christmases is a horrible movie. What does it take to find a copy of Elf around here?!


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