Thursday, December 29, 2011

Keeping Christmas in China

This year was my first Christmas in China, and I am happy to say that it was suitably special.  I opted for a four-day-long observance of the holiday, since it is, after all, my favorite holiday (yup, I'm corny that way).

On the 23rd, I kicked off my festivities by inviting some of my closest Chinese friends (and a couple of American friends) over for a traditional Midwestern dinner and my favorite Christmas movie -- It's a Wonderful Life.  I made a really simple chicken casserole, which my Chinese friends loved, to my relief (I always worry that they won't like our buttery western foods, but they always surprise me).  The movie was even more meaningful than usual, likely because I had to explain quite a bit of it to my friends.  I got to see it from their perspective, and I realized that it really is a film of universal truths.

I was invited to quite a few festivities on Christmas Eve, but after a wonderful-but-exhausting semester of school, I really just wanted a lazy day to myself.  So, I spent the entire day in my pajamas, watching movies and playing Age of Empires (I am proud to say that Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth, Ivan the Terrible, and Queen Isabella were all soundly defeated).  I slept in far later than any adult should (I think it was about 11:00 when I finally got up!) and I ate decidedly unhealthy junk food.  It was just the tonic I needed, especially after all the stress from finals -- my students think they have it tough, but they don't realize how painful the grading process can be!

Christmas was really unique.  I mean, really, really unique.  I enjoyed a traditional English Christmas, complete with turkey and crackers (the kind that explode and have goodies inside, not the kind that one eats with cheese).  I celebrated with a few British friends, a sweet Finnish gal, two fellow Americans, and several new Chinese friends.  We had a riotous game of multi-lingual charades after dinner.  One of the highlights was me pretending to be a watermelon.  Another wonderful moment was watching someone else act out a very energetic octopus.

On Boxing Day, my last full day in China before departing for my trip to Korea, I had a wonderful stew dinner with several other foreigners.  It was like an evening spent with family -- the kind of family that one likes belonging to, not the kind that binds and gags.

I hope you all had lovely Christmases, too, readers!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"