Christmas is such a special time of year! Our family loves Christmas so much, our Christmas decorations are usually up the first day of November. I was a little worried leading up to Christmas this year, because I was afraid we wouldn't have the same feelings that we feel back home. In America we have trees and lights and everyone is in the celebration together. The community holds events and everyone seems to be a little more patient and loving to their neighbors. Because China is not a Christian country, they don't celebrate Christmas and I was afraid Christmas wouldn't feel as special. But we were determined to try our best, and the first thing that makes it feel like Christmas for me, is music! We started our festivities by playing Christmas music around the apartment which immediately lifted our spirits. I don't know about you, but the first time I put on a Christmas song for the year I get overcome by all these great feelings of nostalgia.
Next, we decided we needed to decorate. This, at first, was very difficult because we couldn't find Christmas decorations ANYWHERE at ANY store! The saving grace was our apartment has been a furnished "expat" apartment for at least 15 years, so as we searched through drawers and under beds one day while cleaning, we found Christmas trees and decorations that I can only imagine slowly accumulated over the years. The kids were so excited to put everything up that we found and didn't care that the tree was only a few feet tall.
The last step for making it feel like Christmas, was to remember why we celebrate, and continue on with our Christmas traditions, even if they were more difficult to achieve. We made sugar cookies...which was an all day event with our toaster oven! And I didn't even know how I was going to make frosting without all the standard ingredients available, but it turns out our tastebuds had changed a bit and the thought of putting more sugar on those cookies was something that didn't sit well with even Grant and Ellie!
Another favorite traditions, is a fondue party we have every Christmas eve. We have cheese fondue for dinner, and chocolate fondue for dessert. Trying to find cheese in China was a task when we first arrived, but by now we knew where to get it, we just had to be willing to fork up the money! It was an expensive meal, but after being in China for 5 months, fondue had never tasted so good! It was fun to recreate old traditions, but also make new memories here. We found ourselves at the mall often around Christmas time, because it was one of the only places that somewhat decorated for Christmas, we ate lots of Muslim noodles, because they are seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, which gave the faint taste of Christmas, and we were able to teach about Christmas in our classrooms and were even invited to teach about Christmas at a middle school! All of those things made for a magical Christmas season. (Click here to watch us teach at the middle school.)
We had some friends who were also English teachers come to town and celebrate with us. We spent Christmas eve with them, opened presents Christmas morning ,and that afternoon we went to our local amusement park that was decorated for Christmas, and enjoyed each others company, and the good feelings that come with this special holiday.