Even though Christmas has just passed, the major gift giving season approaches in China: Spring Festival (it is also a major time for illicit gifting). Giving and receiving gifts in China is something of an art, and the ritual can be as important as the gift itself. At work, my office is responsible for hosting visitors from other provinces and countries, so today I want to share with you some of the finer etiquette points I’ve picked up from watching this process dozens of times in the last year. The Art of Receiving a Gift If you’ve ever seen the fight for a bill at dinner, then you’ll understand why I’m starting with receiving first. If you haven’t, it looks something like this: A group of friends […]
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 […]
It’s Christmas Eve here in China, since we are 13 hours ahead of New York, and a full 17 hours ahead of Seattle. My Chinese co-worker, Grace, is attending her daughter’s class Christmas party. Which includes a small gift exchange, performances and food ordered from KFC (at the parents’ expense of course). Grace and her daughter have prepared this cookie song (below), after which they will hand out knock off Oreos to all the other children. The rough idea of the song is about making cookies and then eating them. (“Little friends, isn’t it interesting to make cookies?!”) One of my students/doctors, is going to be taking his family out for a nice dinner on Christmas eve (ironically in China they all eat western food on […]
The blog seems to be off to a great start, and I want to thank all of you for passing this on to people who might be interested. I will be posting over the break, and hope you will use a little of your precious free time to enjoy them. Now for your entertainment, my former students trying to sing Jingle Bells.
One of the most common questions I get is about how much I could talk about religion when I was working in the classroom. In the US there is a lot of confusion about how much religious freedom there is in China (more than you think, but less than there could be), but that is a gigantic issue. So a glimpse of this is how I teach Christmas. Usually I split up Christmas, into two lessons, one for Santa and one for baby Jesus. This is not just because I want the students to understand that these are separate parts of the same holiday, but I really enjoy Christmas and this lets me savor it a little longer. One year I taught a song a week for […]
Christmas in China is a really funny thing. Let’s call it 奇怪(qi-guai), a word that means “strange” but without any negative or positive connotations. You get a full month for quiet reflection, but miss all of the fun and merriment of the Christmas spirit. There are friends you spend special meals with, and there is still some shopping you have to do. After four years, I’m still not sure if I like it or dread it. Christmas is still kind of new in China. During the missionary period up to the revolution Christmas was a quiet religious holiday. The hospital and local universities had many special Christmas performances to try and spread the Gospel. Then President Chiang Kai-shek’s wife, Madame Soong, attended many of these […]
This weekend I visited the local mall, and attended a Christmas worship service. As you can see Christmas is coming in China, and will be the theme of the posts this week. I hope all of you will be spending the holidays with the ones you love. The video below was taken at a local Chinese church, with performance from choirs from both of the large local churches, and the church wind ensemble.
So one part of the Christmas tradition that we look forward to every year is the annual battle over the materialistic aspects Christmas has taken on. Sadly, you can’t even avoid it by coming to China. This weeks story of the week is about extravagant Christmas dinners that are becoming fashionable for China’s super rich. I’m so glad that at least we still have the expectation of staying home with family on Christmas instead of going out to a $500/person meal. Next week we’ll be looking closer at Christmas in China, and I promise pictures of all the terrible knock off Santa stuff.
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