In the Classroom
December 24th sent me to class early morning for the last lesson of the week before Christmas Day. The students were in for a treat for my infamous “Merry Christmas!” bingo game, a review lesson of all the holiday vocabulary we’d been covering for the past 3 weeks. 4 Christmas words in a row send the lucky pair jumping up and shouting “Merry Christmas!” After checking the answers, a candy prize is awarded.
The great joy of this game is that the students take turns being the teachers. The winners from the previous game draw the Christmas vocabulary words and announce these one by one to the class. It’s a great way for them to practice their pronunciation and remember what will soon be on the final test in another week.
Probably, it’s the candy the student bingo winners get that make this game so well-liked.
Needless to say, the “Merry Christmas!” bingo game is always a great way to lead up to the day itself.
On the Campus: A Christmas Eve English Corner
Christmas Eve had our English Corner organizers busy preparing their materials and decorations for our 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. English Corner night at the back gate of the school.
Last year, the English Corner leaders combined their activities with the English Association leaders to put on the campus Christmas party, which always takes place on Christmas Day evening.
This year, they decided to have their own small gathering and do their fun games at our bi-weekly English Corner. This idea turned out to be a much better plan than joining in with crowds of students at the Christmas party.
For a few weeks, the leaders had visited my home to discuss their ideas how to plan a worthwhile English Corner for our English language students. They worked very hard to organize the games, prepare all that was needed and get everything lined up to give those attending a wonderful evening. Christmas trees, decorations, lights, and fun prizes for game winners were all on the agenda.
When I arrived at 8 p.m., our leaders began to entertain our small group of about 40. Everything we did was in English. I helped lead carols using song sheets the group had prepared. Our other organizers pulled out all the stops with a wide variety of English-speaking party games and Christmas activity races. The best was making the longest paper decoration chains for the Christmas tree within 5 minutes. There were drawings for prizes as well and a dancing Santa who did an energetic hip-hop number in her Santa suit.
The evening was a huge success and one which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I had checked with the Catholic Church across the street to find out when their midnight mass would be. I didn’t get ahold of those in the tiny protestant church to find out if anything was taking place with them on Christmas Eve. There is only a small number of them (about 20), which presents a very different worship service from the one I was used to in Luzhou.
For the Catholic Church, I thought we would have some special performances like we do in the Chinese protestant church. However, the mass was just the same as always with not many in attendance.
The most interesting part were the sellers lining the church walkway. We had Muslims from the north with their lamb kabobs sizzling on their small grills, carts with vegetable and meat sticks boiled in tasty broth, and a booth of Santa hats and flashing wands.
In my previous church in Luzhou, everyone enjoyed buying such items to wear in church for our Christmas Eve performance service.
But here in this tiny location, our Christmas seller wasn’t doing much business at all. I broke down for a sparkly Santa hat to wear the next day.
Other from that, I don’t think she made a single sale.
The English Association Christmas Day Party
The other annual campus Christmas activity was the Christmas Day party.
This was held by the English Association for all the students.
Although I was asked to give some suggestions to make it more of a western celebration, the party ended up being a typical Chinese gathering with just the Christmas decorations signaling it as a theme for something else. Everything was in Chinese and not a stitch of English spoken. Not even the reason for having a Christmas celebration was explained to the crowds.
The speaker system was too loud, meaning the announcers shouted into the mics and about burst my eardrums. The party games and prizes ended up being a mob scene at times with students racing in groups and knocking one another down to participate in games which they knew would lead to prizes.
Then we had the little ones in our midst.
Children from the campus were all underfoot, wanting to get in on the goodies and games. This did present a problem at times, especially for the special kids’ Santa give-away. This was supposed to be led by me with children coming forward, standing in a line, saying “Merry Christmas!” in English and receiving a small bag of candy.
Or at least, that’s the way I had explained it to the planners.
But instead of calling me over to get us started, the announcers went ahead on their own while I was chatting with my students off to the side.
“Hey, little friends! Santa’s here to give you some candies along with the foreign teacher!”
That sent the children into overdrive.
Basically, the kids rushed the Santas, grabbing, pushing, hitting and snatching things out of their baskets (held high over their heads) in an effort to get the candy which was being given out. Some had armfuls of little bags while others had none. I gave up even trying to straighten out this mess. Hopeless!
So much for Christmas cheer.
An open microphone at the end had everyone volunteering to screech out their Chinese pop songs while I was left covering my poor ears due to the volume of the noise: LOUD.
For the Chinese, this was all a lot of fun and I’m very happy they enjoyed themselves, even though it had nothing to do with Christmas and no one even knew why there was a Christmas Day.
For myself, the English Corner was a much more fulfilling event.
An Invite To the Teachers
Christmas afternoon had me entertaining some of the teachers from our English language Department. For over 2 hours, those who stopped by enjoyed coffee, tea, cut-out Christmas cookies, banana bread, chocolate truffle cookies and a very Christmasy atmosphere. We even had 3 children who attended with their parents.
“I feel like I’m in another world!” Vice-dean Liang Ling said in wonder as she gazed around. “It’s so peaceful here, so beautiful.”
Just the sort of response that warms the heart on Christmas Day.
Getting Ready for Finals and Chinese New Year Holidays
Now that Christmas is over, it’s time to get ready for final exams.
My students will be tested in oral English for a period of 2 weeks (January 4 – 15) so I can finish them all. Our last week of class will be handing out grades and giving winter homework assignments. Then it’s off to the Amity Winter Conference, being held in Nanning (my province’s capital city) this year, to Chengdu to drop off Little Flower at her babysitters’, a visit to America and then back to China for our new semester to begin on March 8.
My students will be excitedly spending their holidays with their parents and friends in their hometowns for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) which falls on February 14 this year: Valentine’s Day!
Here’s hoping your holidays were just as wonderful as mine have been.
From China, as always, Ping An (Peace)!