I was remembering today the first Christmas I experienced in China. We moved to Beijing in 1993. At that time in China, Christmas wasn't really popular, so there weren't any decorations or Christmas music in public. Now days you can find some decorations here and there. But back then, it really was a foreign holiday, so it was hard to get in the Christmas spirit. We had to work hard to make Christmas in our own home.
We lived in the "City Hotel", and at that time there was a florist shop just down the street. Flowers were so inexpensive that I used to get a bouquet for my table almost every week. I could have a beautiful bouquet of roses and other flowers for about $5 U.S. One day when I went to get my weekly arrangement, I happened to notice an artificial Christmas tree sitting in the middle of the room. I quickly asked them how much it cost. They told me that it would be about $15 U.S. I told them I wanted to buy it. I was so excited! It was the only Christmas tree I had seen!
There was also a store not far away called "The Lufthansa Center". Unlike most other stores in our neighborhood, it had souvenirs for sale. One day while I was there, I happened to find Christmas ornaments for sale! In China at that time, there were very rarely any Christian related products, but these ornaments had many! There were embroidered angels, Mary and Jesus, Wise men etc. I bought a whole bunch of them to use to decorate our tree. I felt so lucky to have found them!
There was also a place near our hotel that focused on selling to foreigners. I often went there to see what they had. I was able to find embroidered Christmas stockings, tablecloths, and even a quilt. I don't know if I can properly communicate how rare it was to find any Christmas decorations at all, and here I had hit the jackpot!
One thing that I have always tried to buy when I travel to other countries is a nativity. I collect nativities, and decided it would be neat to get them from all over the world. But at that time in China, I could not find one anywhere. The embroidered ornaments would have to count. But then one day my church visiting teacher came and brought me one of those Scandinavian Christmas candles. It has different tiers with nativity figures on them, and a kind of windmill on top. Candles are placed all around, and the heat causes the windmill to spin, which makes the nativity figures go round. That is the only real nativity I brought home from China.
That was a great Christmas for us. I don't think our presents were necessarily great, but we enjoyed having Christmas in our own home. I still have most of those decorations now. I brought them home and use them every year.