Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas is for Shopping...

Every year that I'm in China over the holiday season, Christmas becomes more and more commercialized. In 2003, there was barely a mention of Christmas. It was all about the upcoming Chinese New Year. Now you see Christmas trimmings, huge Christmas trees and lights everywhere-especially in public shopping areas. There is even a section of DaHu Tong (A huge wholesale shopping district) which now sells all kinds of gaudy Christmas junk! "What do most Chinese think about Christmas?" I asked my local friend. "Don't you know?" she responded in disbelief. "It's for shopping and giving gifts...and of course for going out with your boyfriend on Christmas Eve to Bin Jiang Dao! That's fun!" I will admit that it is nice to have a little Christmas spirit here as opposed to nothing at all, but Christmas as we know it in the West is nothing like Christmas in China. This year our organization was asked to get associates sing Christmas songs on a huge stage on the busiest shopping street (Bin Jiang Dao) in Tianjin just before midnight. Having been on this street last Christmas and witnessing the craziness of an all-out New Years Eve type of party with 10,000 of your closest Chinese friends, I was not anxious to do that again. But since this was for the organization and we would be receiving both money and publicity for JHF's Special Education Program, I agreed to participate. It was a freezing cold night with 40 mph winds to boot. Because there is no snow here, the organizers has snow machines going to simulate the effect. Unfortunately, the flakes were made of soap, which I didn't find out until after i tried to catch a snowflake on my tongue! Yuck! There were jugglers, magicians, and even Michael Jackson look-alike dancers making merry on the stage. In the crowds. people donned their Santa hats, costumes, devil horns, Halloween and Mardi Gras feathered masks and blinking bunny ears in preparation for a good time. Just before midnight, our "choir" took to the stage to perform. Knowing as foreigners we would have serious "crowd-drawing" power, the officials sent their best 24 Kong fu riot police to stand in front of the stage and hold back the would-be rowdy crowds. When we sang JingBells and the crowd got excited- joining in the singing! We followed up with Joy to the World and whipped up a frenzy and when we got to We Wish You a Merry Christmas (in both English and Chinese) the crowd went wild! We were rock stars, man! Screaming girls, flashing cameras and the TV station filming for a showing at a later date. We counted down the seconds (10, 9, 8....) until 1 and then the cannons shot off millions of little pieces of gold confetti into the air as people shouted "Merry Christmas!" We had to leave the stage for a few minutes and then came back for an encore of Silent Night in multiple languages. People were swaying back and forth holdingup their cell phones, and battery operated lights as if they were really believing the message. This was anything but a Silent Night! These are the times when I realize how foreign I am in this culture and how foreign my beliefs are as well. Sometim es I ask myself how these two world can ever be on the same page with the deep things of life, but that's when I remember that these are not new questions. They have been asked for centuries. This is the very message and mystery of Christmas. Those things that are beyond human understanding have already been taken care of. There is a perfect plan, a perfect child, a love that makes all things new and in the fullness of time it will be seen. In most every culture Santa has his place but...Joy to the World the Lord is Come!


Sunday, December 13, 2009


Although I can't be home for Christmas to enjoy all the celebrating of the season, I have come to the conclusion that Christmas can be celebrated anywhere at any time. Yesterday was the first Christmas party I've ever hosted in China. I invited all the teachers from my school and any of their friends that they wanted to bring. Since my apartment is relatively small, I wasn't sure if it could hold everyone, but I was willing to see just how many we could cram into my living room. This is never a problem for the Chinese. They are used to being crammed into small spaces! Fortunately, there were only 12 of us in total, but it made for a fun time. We had a blast acting out "The 12 Days of Christmas" as we sang the song karaoke style! We had a scavenger hunt race to look all over my apartment for pictures and texts from the Christmas Story and then, after sequencing everything in the right order, we listened as one of the women read it aloud to the group . After some yummy snacks, we made gorgeous glass bead bracelets. This was my Christmas gift to them, drawing analogies about making their bracelet to how they were each created with specific gifts and talents which make them beautiful, and valuable and loved. We laughed, shared, and got answers to questions. We ended the afternoon a "White Elephant" gift exchange, which was actually pretty funny because no one quite understood that "White Elephant" gifts are supposed to be useless, ugly, used things, so people actually brought some not so bad stuff! I will say it was a ton of work putting all of this together, but the truth is, I loved it ...and the result was really great! A lot of gals heard new ideas that they had not heard or understood before and were really touched by the stories and my gift to them. It is easy for me to get sad about not being home with my family, not being able to celebrate with fellowships, and feel lonely being here with only a few other foreigners; but I am really thankful for these opportunities to share the meaning of Christmas with my teachers and other Chinese friends. The greatest gift was already given to me and I am grateful that I have this gift to share with them. It's an amazing gift that money cannot buy...and it's not a "white elephant."


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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