For 2015, let me finally give you the highlights of our Luzhou Protestant Church Christmas Eve festivities.
Every year, our celebrations are a little different as the worship committee plans what’s best for everyone involved. For two years now, the church has given two worship services for Christmas in order to reach as many as possible. Monday evening, Dec. 22, was for the Christian church members and then Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) was for the public.
Both evenings, with 40 minutes of traditional worship (choir processional, anthems, hymns, prayers, clery message) then 2 hours of performances followed by a quiet, solemn countdown to midnight, are exactly the same but with different audience members.
I was asked to attend both, since Pastor Liao and I had planned to sing together, but sorry to say, I was not able to attend Monday evening. I had a full day of testing, with two more yet to go, and just didn’t feel I could invest two nights of celebrations to keep fresh enough for my own students the next day.
Christmas Eve, however, was a definite go.
My Personal Observations for The Church’s 2014 Christmas Eve
We didn’t have quite as many dance performances this year as last. I did miss the elderly fan dancers and some of the traditional Chinese folk numbers with floaty, elegant garb. We’ve also had Xinjiang Province belly dancers in our midst who had lovely dance moves and our young teen girls’ “Santa Baby” swivel numbers which had us cheering. This year brought more choir numbers and solos.
This was also the first year we opened with an orchestral performance accompanied by a professional singer.
This turned out to be a bit too dirgy for my taste. It was a Hebrewesque number, perhaps translated into Chinese, with the theme music to Schindler’s List thrown in at very odd moments. Our soloist — slow, dark, mournful wailing with overly dramatic gestures and sorrowful facial expressions.
The orchestra – too loud (especially the horns) and the violins off. Plus is went on forever! There seemed to be no end, leaving those in attendance to start talking to one another, answering cellphones, texting friends or squeezing through the standing-room-only populace to find a better vantage point.
Usually, we start with joyfulness, with the elementary kids in their colorful outfits doing their well-choreographed moves. Did make me wonder what in the world the public thought about Christianity after being put through that tormented lament but one thing I will say: We could go nowhere but up after that, which we certainly did as the kids immediately followed.
Finally! Here came the laughter, smiles and delight I always expect for our Chinese services on Christmas Eve.
Foreign Students Once Again Show Their Supportive Presence
The foreign Christian students, about 20, from the Medical College always do something for our evening.
At our local medical college, there are enrolled about 500 foreign students from Pakistan, Nepal, India and different African nations. They study in the medical school here in China mainly because they were not able to pass their medical school entrance exams in their own countries.
Their instruction is all in English by Chinese professors since their program is separate from the Chinese students, who are taught in Chinese. They also have a few professors, sent by their separate countries, who give classes as well.
It’s a very strange set-up, in my opinion, but an extremely profitable one for the Medical College which charges about $5,000 a year per foreign student to attend. The Chinese students pay about $2,000. This is one of the reasons why the Medical College was able to build a gorgeous new campus outside of the city limits, where all the foreign students are currently placed. The older, rather run-down campus, near the city center, is comprised of all the rest: the Chinese students whose majors include dentistry, Chinese traditional medicine, Western medicine and medical English.
These foreign students study at our Luzhou Medical College for 5 years, then return to their own countries where they take their medical exams once again to see if they pass or not. While a majority are Muslim or Buddhist, there is a small Christian community who come to our Luzhou church from time to time, even though they don’t speak Chinese.
Last year, they performed an updated version of the birth of Jesus, including doctors in medical coats to assist during Mary’s labor. The entire skit was in English, which no one understood, but there was honestly no need. We all got the humor of the scenes, not to mention the meaningful ending where everyone sang Silent Night as Mary rocked Jesus to sleep. It was quite moving and touching, a real addition to our evening together as Christians.
This year, the group scaled down a bit and sang Joy to the World.
I know the Chinese church members always appreciate their participation, as do I so I’m not the only non-Chinese in the bunch to share in the festivities of our Christian holiday.
Enjoy the Gallery of Photos!
To finish off this post, I hope you enjoy the gallery of photos from my Christmas Eve. As you can see, it was a joyful night for all.
Ping An (Peace) sent your way this first week in 2015.