In the previous post, I gave you a look at my USA Christmas, one which I haven’t had in the States in 28 years. How about China?
Christmas Activity Night
The English Association, one of our college clubs of about 200 members, and I organized the yearly campus-wide Christmas Activity Night. All students of any major were invited, including teachers and their family members. Former students who were teachers in Luzhou brought their own students as well for our special night.
It was a huge amount of work (we worked on it for a month) but well worth all the time, energy, and planning that went into it. Our stations included: Christmas greeting candy stations (Say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” and “Happy New Year” to get a piece of candy), decorate the Christmas trees, gift wrapping (we had 200 apples and 200 oranges to be wrapped with special paper and tags to write on), craft-making (snowflakes and ornaments) and photos with Santa and elves. I still remember the excitement of that night and how no one wanted to leave, despite our 8 p.m. deadline.
Welcome to my Christmas Home!
Last year, so many students crowded into my apartment in the teachers’ apartment building on my campus. For 8 days, my evenings were staggered with groups of my college English language majors stuffing themselves into the elevators to ascend to the 9th floor, where my home was located. Exclamations of surprise, laughter, “Oh!”s and “Ah!”s, giggles and unbridled joy filled every visit. Baskets overflowed with candy as I constantly replenished from my 3-bag stash in my bedroom. I am sure my candy seller has missed me these past few weeks, not so much for my enthusiastic “Merry Christmas!” greetings as I approached her storefront but more for the 800 yuan (close to $150 US) I spent at her stall.
Take a look at how your gifts (holiday pencils, monetary donations, wonderful Christmas cards) made these gatherings so very, very special.
The Chinese Church
At present, I am receiving so many messages from the choir members about practices for the Christmas Eve service.
Yesterday, Sunday, our choir monitor announced by text that the noodle shop next to the church would be open at 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for all church performers to get a hearty meal for free before practice began promptly at 7 p.m. We were to be there at 6 p.m., in robes, for warm-up and be ready to start the run-through at 7 p.m.
Last year, we didn’t get home until 11:30 p.m. for our practices and we had two of those! I remember making sure to tell my college’s gate security guards that I’d be coming in close to midnight. This also included Christmas Eve, although we usually ended around 10:30 p.m. for December 24th. Since our campus has a 10:30 p.m. curfew for students, it’s important to let them know to be expecting a late-night entry from the foreign teacher. That is just common courtesy and something I know our security staff always appreciated so no misunderstandings would develop.
Here are some of last year’s best moments. With Covid completely under control, with not a single case in my city of 5 million, masks are not even required. These photos from last year will most likely be very similar to what you’d be seeing on Thursday night. What a “Hallelujah!” worship that will be!
Christmas Eve in Marshall
Yes, my Christmas Eve will be very different this year. No exhausting Christmas schedules squashed between teaching duties (Chinese New Year is a holiday, not Christmas, so I’m working as always), and late night practices with early morning risings. This year, it’s a quiet stay-at-home with my mom and me participating in tomorrow’s taping of our church’s Christmas Eve service. We are singing “Once in David’s Royal City,” a peppy “Come, Expected Jesus” and Silent Night along with a few other singers and instrumentalists. We definitely will be home long before midnight, I hope!
While here, I’m very grateful to have these new holiday memories to share with my students and choir members, either this year or next. I have been taking full advantage of this time in America, making sure to record everything in both pictures and video clips for future lessons. My lessons next year will be outstanding, I’m sure.
In the meantime, I’m making sure to enjoy every minute I spend here. Merry Christmas and God’s love for your celebrations this year, everyone! Hold tight to this Christmas, rejoice in what is and not what isn’t, and embrace the reason for the season: Christ’s light brought into the world on this, our Christian faith’s most holy day.
Ping An (Peace)!