my (first?) Christmas in China

This is what it's all about, you guys.
This is what it’s all about, you guys.

About 3 weeks ago, my students started telling me, “Christmas will be coming soon.” Oh, really? It does seem a little strange, since the grass is still green. And it’s cold, but a different kind of cold than back home (partly because many buildings are indifferently heated–my home is OK, but the classrooms are like meat lockers with less ambience). And it stays light a little bit later than back home. So it feels like mid-October, not Christmassy at all.

Then around December 15, the Christmas decorations came out everywhere. Mostly just pictures of Santa’s face plastered everywhere. The library coffeeshop had two Christmas trees, one of the Charlie Brown variety. Decorations tend toward the garish; I bought myself a little wreath made entirely of tinsel. (I showed a photo to one of my students but I forgot to explain irony to him first. He thought it was a little strange, and he wasn’t wrong.)

So we have Christmas here. But we still have to work. It’s like St. Patrick’s Day in most of the US, I suppose–it’s just a fun thing to do with your friends. Also worth noting that 圣诞节快乐 translates as “happy gift-giving festival” and 圣诞老人 is “gift-giving old man.” What’s the reason for the season?

It’s apples. I don’t totally understand, but I guess the word for apple rhymes with the word for good luck, so it’s traditional to eat an apple on Christmas Eve. (So maybe we should eat wood duck?) One of my students bought me an apple in a little cardboard gift box, which is apparently a fashionable thing among students. So I ate that after work, and answered a butt-ton of “Merry Christmas” texts from students.

Then Thursday I had my normal office hours. I could have cancelled them, but my Friday students had their final on Saturday, and I wanted to help them if they had questions. A few students brought me candy and the cards in the photo (I DIE), and I brought some candy with Santa on the package that was kind of nasty. (Side note: I’ve barely had chocolate since I’ve been here, and I don’t really miss it. No wonder my jeans fit like a gang-banger’s.) A few teachers had a little Christmas party that afternoon, but I didn’t want to drink before work.

And that was it. I had a little trouble expressing to my students that I don’t really care about Christmas. I told them that the important thing about Christmas for me is being with my family, and since I can’t do that, it’s not that important. And I explained that Christmas is most fun with little kids around. And I tried to explain that not all Americans celebrate Christmas (they were tickled by the tradition of Jews eating Chinese food). I told them that I’m not a typical American. (Who is?) But you know, it’s sweet of them to care.


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