SOCIAL MEDIA

29 December 2014

Our First Christmas in China

I have heard a constant refrain recently of, "It just doesn't feel like Christmas!" from many an expatriate. I was trying to analyze why I couldn't honestly share with this sentiment, when it dawned on me that I don't really have a fixed idea of what Christmas "feels like."

Many speak of family traditions. I get the impression that my family is the sort that, in theory, likes traditions well-enough, but finds putting them into practice a little impractical. For example: For my first Christmas, my grandmother gave me a stocking that had a teddy bear head and had my name embroidered on it. After seeing that stocking, Mom decided that all of her future children would have matching stockings...a plan which went very well until the company that made my stocking went out of business while several of my sisters were not yet born. The first 5 of us indeed have matching stockings, but Mary-Grace's and Sarah's don't quite fit the mold.

Last year, I had my first Christmas with Angel's family. In other recent years, I have spent a few Christmases with my grandparents and aunts and uncles while I was a single college student, and later, while Angel was working a holiday shift at the hospital. I've spent Christmas with my own parents and siblings in America and in Malaysia as well.

My Christmas dinners have ranged from tamales with my Mexican family, to an 8-course formal Chinese banquet at my church in Malaysia, to a venison roast one year in Michigan when deer season was particularly fruitful...to the very memorable year that my grandparents decided to have filet mignon for Christmas dinner because the party was so small.

This year's Christmas was different from all previous years, but I cannot say it "didn't feel like Christmas" because I'm unable to come to a conclusion on the matter of what Christmas ought to feel like.

The Education Bureau of our city invited all of the foreign teachers in our program to attend a Christmas Eve banquet, which included a night's stay in the hotel where the banquet was hosted. Angel and I were quite excited about the banquet...I mean, we're the kind of people who get giddy about free toilet paper, if you remember, so a free feast and hotel stay sounds perfectly amazing to us!



We were served a sumptuous feast of rolls, french fries, shrimp, oysters, fish, lamb, chicken, beef, stir-fried green veggies, spaghetti, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and oranges. Angel was quite excited to see bottles of pop on the banquet tables when we arrived--hot water or tea is the usual drink of choice here, so pop is an unusual concession to the preferred tastes of foreigners.

After our banquet, we walked a little around the general vicinity of the hotel, which was located in our beloved shopping district, DongMen, and then headed to bed, since we had big plans for the next day!

In the morning, we gobbled up our free hotel breakfast and headed straight for the metro, because we had plans to head into Hong Kong and go watch The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies with some friends of ours. The border crossing was not particularly busy, but when we arrived at the Festival Walk mall we realized how very crowded everything was and also that maybe it's slightly crazy to visit Hong Kong on a holiday.

Our friends surprised us only after we got in line to buy movie tickets with the news that they'd already purchased our movie tickets as a Christmas gift to us (how sweet is that?). We had a few hours till the movie, so we enjoyed our time wandering the mall (I stumbled across a box of rare and exotic Cheez-its and bought them, how's that for an awesome Christmas?).


Ya'll know I love malls. I want to go back to Festival Walk pretty soon to more thoroughly explore it, hopefully when it's not quite as busy! We ate in the foodcourt, for the four of us are but ESL teachers and most restaurants in the mall seemed to err on the side of being fancy. So, for the first time ever, my Christmas Day main meal was found in a mall foodcourt. However, I don't think that really counts since I'd feasted at the wonderful banquet just the evening before!

We enjoyed our much-anticipated movie, and then headed right back across the border to return to our home in ShenZhen. Angel and I had wanted to attend church Christmas evening, but the combination of rain, the fact that Angel had to be at work bright and early the next day, and the fact that we both had colds made us fall asleep just about instantly when we arrived home.

It was a one-of-a-kind Christmas, I don't think I could have asked for anything more!

(P.S. Nope, schools don't have Christmas break here. We were generously allowed to have the day of Christmas off, but our students and coworkers went on with life as usual)
Anonymous said...

It all sounds perfectly perfect....

Julia said...

I love it! It's all about celebrating Jesus and spending time with loved ones anyway, it doesn't matter where or how you celebrate! I think sometimes doing something different for a holiday makes for a better memory than doing the same as you've always done!

Inge Jane said...

That sounds like a fantastic way to celebrate your Christmas!

Dani {Adventures of a Pharm Girl} said...

Free food and a hotel stay is a win win in my book too! That mall looks amazing. So glad y'all had a good time :)
xoxo

Suzanne Carillo said...

Very different but very memorable as well.

bisous
Suzanne

Garaytreasures said...

Merry Christmas in China :)
Rachel xo
Http://Garaytreasures.wordpress.com

Patty said...

What a fun way to celebrate your first Christmas together in China! You two looked like you had a blast all fancy n' dressed up at the banquet...a nice perk of being an ESL teacher, huh? ;-)

Bethany Carson said...

Sounds like a fun day! The dress you wore to the banquet is very pretty! I just finished reading your ebook Staying on Topic is Hard, and I loved it!

Anonymous said...

Love! The picture of you and Angel is really nice. I hope you had a lovely Christmas!

meandmr.com said...

I know just how you feel! I we left town for Christmas-- so that I didn't feel as bad being away from family. It's hard because even though I got to see Christmas lights, Christmas carols, and drink peppermint hot chocolate in Singapore, it still didn't feel like Christmas because I wasn't with one of your families!
Melanie @ meandmr.com

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a pretty cool Christmas! What did you think of the movie? We haven't seen it and I haven't heard any reactions yet.

AwesomelyOZ said...

Wow that's awesome! That's pretty considerate of the Education Bureau provided you all with a day off, a hotel stay, and food! It's pretty cool, their malls look just like ours! Did you find most of their stores were typical American/European stores? Glad you had a great holiday and take care Rachel! -Iva

Ashley Lee said...

Sounds like a wonderful Christmas! <3

The Mommy Diaries said...

Sounds like an amazing Christmas with lots of memories!

Saxon @ Lets Drink Coffee, Darling said...

First off, your qipao is GORGEOUS! Those colors really suit you.

That's fun that you visited HK, and that you saw the Hobbit! We plan to go, but tickets are part of our Christmas present to Tyler's dad, so we're waiting on a time that is good for them to actually go see it.

That's nice of the school to give you Christmas day off, too. I didn't think Christmas in China really "felt" like Christmas, but in its own way it really couldn't have been more what Christmas should be. It was my first time to actually host a Christmas dinner, and I spent time with dear friends from Korea. Spending the day preparing and the evening sharing some of our traditions and bonding with friends was more special than the feel of the lights and Christmas glamor that we get in the states.

Erica said...

Wow, you really have had a vast variety of ways of celebrating Christmas! This one seems an especially one-of-a-kind celebration, and the small things (like freebies, movie tickets and cheez-its) add up to be a big thing :)

chelsea @ the new wifestyle said...

so glad you wrote about this because i was curious how you would be spending it! so sweet of your friends to be buy your movie tickets too and jackpot with those cheez-its!

excellent point that maybe christmas isn't a specific feeling either because i had that a bit this year too (though i've had more 'consistent' christmases than it sounds like you have). although last year we moved across the country the day after christmas so all pots and pans were packed up and the only thing open in the suburbs of houston was a jack-in-the-box for xmas dinner...ew.

glad you enjoyed yourselves!

Sarah Barnett said...

Wow, sounds like your Christmas' are always a surprise! I visited China & Hong Kong in November of 2008, and it was quite an experience. Several memories that I will never forget like the meals that seem to never end because they keep bringing out more food!! Thanks for sharing your experience.

Storybook Apothecary said...

wow sounds interesting for sure! lovely holiday and wishing you a happy new year in 2015!

http://StorybookApothecary.com ♥

leelee said...

The Christmas banquet sounds lovely.

Krysten Quiles said...

Aw I think your Christmas sounds wonderful!

Tiffany Khyla said...

I would love to spend Christmas in China! It looks and sounds like y'all had a lovely time!

Kate @ Another Clean Slate said...

Looks like a great Christmas to me- happy new year!!

Miss Nutralicious said...

It sounds like the banquet was awesome! Also, I love the dress that you wore. I don't want to spoil anything, but I don't think that is the real Santa. I could be wrong though, I'm not an expert. Merry belated Christmas and Happy New Year!

Jennifer Prod said...

you're so wonderfully even-keeled and good-spirited about things. have i ever heard you complain? i can't imagine you stomping about how it doesn't feel like christmas - just embracing whatever is, and finding ways to enjoy it however you can <3 happy new year to you and angel!!

Paige @ Reasons to Come Home said...

Sounds like a wonderful Christmas! I never realized (until recently) how common seeing a movie on Christmas Day was. That's kind of a bummer that y'all didn't get. Christmas break though!

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

That sounds fun! I'm glad they gave you Christmas off.

Sam M said...

I loved this post, and your attitude about Christmas. What a fun collective of Christmasas you've had! I went to see the Hobbit on Christmas too. No matter where you are, you can still make it feel like Christmas.

Maureen Hitipeuw said...

Your post brought back lots of memories of my own Christmas in China. Guangzhou to be exact. Sounds like you have a fun one :) Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

The Lady Okie said...

Sounds like a very excellent Christmas. Who doesn't love free stuff? And tons of Americans go to movies on Christmas so you basically did what half the States did anyway! :)