Being thousands of miles away from home isn’t exactly how most people picture celebrating Christmas. In fact, it’s a holiday that can be pretty hard to enjoy without family.
So, like many expats, I did my best to recreate the Christmas experience with my students and co-workers. For the four weeks leading up to the holiday, we spent the last 10 minutes of every class practicing a few festive songs. I think for the most part the students enjoyed the challenge, and the rest liked having the time to make noise.
Finally, on Christmas day, we made a call from the classroom to my grandparent’s house where my whole family was and surprised them with a seasonal medley. It was a moment I’ll never forget; 30 students huddled around a microphone, trying their best to get through Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, and Frosty the Snowman. I swear I could hear my grandmother smiling on the other end of the line.
In the countryside, it was easy to get away from the commercial season that Christmas has become in the West and in China’s urban areas. We focused instead on the festive spirit that comes with the joyous birth of Jesus Christ, although the students mostly focused on the first part (My post on Teaching Christmas to Communists).
Teaching in rural China was one of the happiest times in my life, but the students all realized that Christmas was hard for me. So on Christmas Eve, they surprised me with this video to cheer me up. It made the thousands of miles of separation from the life I formally knew completely worthwhile.
I hope you and your families have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, or any other holiday you might celebrate. If you aren’t religious, I hope you will still take a moment to stop and appreciate the wonderful gift that family is.