Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I won't be home for Christmas

William with my stocking

Homesickness. . . it's something I never really suffered from until the birth of William. Now that the holiday season has arrived, I have to work extra hard not to be overwhelmed by it.

coloring contest
I've missed nearly a decade's worth of Christmases without much too much regret. I've actually somewhat enjoyed celebrating the holidays on my own terms. In China, particularly in Chengde, Christmas can pass without much notice. Though it's gaining some popularity in recent years, Chinese people don't celebrate the holiday in any traditional sense. There are decorations here and there, some that remain throughout the entire year. Even my favorite cafe, whose boss is normally so well in tune with Western habits and festivities, has had a Christmas tree in her shop since last December. Sometimes I hear Christmas music, but it may be in July or January.

making cookies
Clearly, Christmas is mine do with as I please; unlike in the US, in China there are no expectations. Since returning to Chengde in 2008, I've made a point to go all out for the holiday. I decorate our home with Christmas decorations, some of which date from my childhood, others left behind from other foreigners over the years. I buy presents for Ping, pretending to be Santa, though Ming's mom has given me away numerous times when she says, “Thank your mom for all the nice presents she got you!” (The concept of Santa seems to be lost on her, an elderly Chinese woman). I also spend over a week baking, having each one of my students make a different cookie with me. At the end of the week, I throw a Christmas party for all of my students, at which we sample all the different cookies. We also play a variety of games such as Pin the Nose on the Rudolph and White Elephant gift exchange.
some of the treats

Getting ready for Christmas this year has been just the distraction I needed. Last Sunday I threw my party, with18 kids and 21 different holiday treats to sample. A part of me did feel sad that this might be the last year I host such a party since there's a good chance we'll be in the US during the next holiday season. My Christmas Party has become infamous among students (they start talking about it in June) and it's a tradition I manage to create all on my own. But as with so many things, it's something I'll have to leave behind when we move. But I guess that's okay, I'm sure we'll forge new traditions back in the US.

What about you, have you spent the holidays away from home? Does it make you feel homesick?

decorating the tree

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