When I lived in America to say I was burned out of the holiday season would be an understatement. I was tired of the consumerism, tired of the holiday pressure and tired of feeling like a total glutton eating all the delicious food that was laid in front of me.
So coming to China was like a breath of fresh air. Here, Christmas decorations are left up all year, the day itself is a work day, and while several people say “Merry Christmas” they don’t really know or care much about the holiday.
I also happily ignored it, benefitting from a few special (free) dinners and gifts I was happy. I was done and over Christmas, and happy to be free of the pressures.
But it is now my 4th Christmas away from home, and that old holiday feeling is creeping up on me. After taking a break I realize that I like listening to Christmas songs, I like the general happiness in society during December, and nothing is more fun then spending a crisp winter night shopping.
I think I’m getting soft in my old age.
So this year, despite having to work 6 hours both christmas eve and christmas day I’m bringing the cheer back. I’ve done some decorating, been listening to christmas songs, and went into the ‘big city’ to try to find some ingredients to make some delicious christmas goodies.
I’m also introducing Christmas to my boyfriend. This is proving to be especially fun. While he knows the basics of Christmas, like sheng dan lao ren, literally christmas old guy, or Santa, he isn’t really sure of the details.
“Christmas. That’s when the christmas old guy gives you presents in your socks, right?” He seemed filled with excitement over the idea and even giggled a little as he described Santa flying in the sky with his reindeer.
In fact my boyfriend seems almost more excited for christmas than me. It’s because technically, it’s his first Christmas. He gasped with astonishment when he saw my tiny, tacky christmas tree covered in lights and little silver balls. “So pretty!” he said. And when we watch christmas movies, he laughs uproariously at things I take for granted, such as cute little elves making toys for kids.
Of course, there is a lot he doesn’t get. We were watching the movie Elf and at one point Santa tells Buddy that his real dad is on the naughty list, and everybody in the movie looks shocked.
“I don’t get it,” said my boyfriend.
“Santa knows if you have been good or bad, and only gives gifts to the good kids,” I said. He nodded in understanding then thought for a moment.
“Does everybody in America really believe in Santa.”
“Of course!” I replied.
“Really?!” he said looking at me a little surprised.
“Yes,” I said while shaking my head no. He laughed.
And I had to keep him away from the advent calendar my mom sent me because he immediately tried to open all the doors, despite it being the beginning of the month. After I explained the purpose behind it he helped and open just that days door.
“So you use this every month?” he asked. Maybe I didn’t explain it as well as I should have.
So I get it. I get why parents have such a good time making spectacular christmas’ to surprise and delight their kids. I get why following traditions is important, and after 4 years I find myself actually missing the hustle and the bustle (and the food, oh the delicious christmas food) of the holiday season.
So while Christmas in China isn’t the same, I’m doing the best to bring as much of that old Christmas feeling into my little world here. I hope wherever you are, and whoever you are celebrating it with, you have a very merry Christmas.