My last post reminded me of our first Christmas in China. I keep thinking about what it was like, so decided to post an entry about it.
At Christmas time, we didn't have any decorations with us, so I began searching the stores and markets. I used to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers every week because they were so cheap in China. While in the flower store one day, I noticed an imitation Christmas tree standing off to the side. At that time in China, they didn't really understand the whole Christmas thing, so I was able to buy it really cheap. I scoured the stores and at a store for foreigners I found some embroidered tree ornaments. I bought a whole bunch of them, and was happy that many had Christian themes. I also found some embroidered Christmas stockings. Although whenever we left our home there was no sign of Christmas, atleast we had it in our home. I remember writing to my family that we had to work hard to get in the holiday spirit because the only place that we found it was in our home.
Buying gifts was a little more tricky. For one thing, at that time in China there weren't many toys available. I guess in general people just couldnt' afford them. There were some cheap toys like we might find at the dollar store here, but nothing of quality. I finally was able to find some toys at a foreigner department store. My daughter asked for a purple wagon for Christmas. It couldnt' be red, it had to be purple. I looked everywhere for a wagon, red or purple, but couldnt' find one. I think she still remembers that she never got a purple wagon. That's okay, I never got a horse. :)
One of our traditions that we do every year is put up an advent calendar. I made the one we have out of felt many years ago. It has felt ornaments that velcro on a felt tree. My kids really enjoy putting up an ornament each day to count down the days until Christmas. In China however, we didn't have that with us. I remember I drew one for my kids. I drew a castle that had many doors and windows. I backed it with another piece of paper so that I could cut open the doors and windows. The kids could open one each day, and behind each door or window they would find a picture of something fun. I wanted to make their holiday as much like home as possible.
I do remember that my husband bought some special gifts for me that made my stay in China wonderful. He bought me a CD player and an electric keyboard. The keyboard saved my sanity. I could play music to my heart's content. The CD player brightened up our little world at the top of the 23rd floor or our apartment building. It had an alarm that we could set so that a CD would begin to play to wake us up each morning. My husbands' boss lived in Australia, and he brought us a CD of instrumental music using native musical instruments. The Australian muscians could even make bird noises with their instruments. Every day we awoke to the music with the sound of birds in the background. Later, in the summer time, a friend of our house sat for us while we were in the states. For several days he would wake up to hear music and birds singing, but couldnt' figure out where the sound was coming from.
I will agree that commercialism has taken over this holiday. But for me, the traditions we carry on from year to year are more meaningful than the gifts we get or give. I felt happy that I could preserve some of those traditions even though we were very far from home.