December 25, 2006
It is Christmas morning here in China and our team is meeting together for breakfast in about an hour, but I wanted to send out an update on the Christmas celebrations in China.
Celebrating this holiday has been so interesting in a new culture. The decorations of Christmas in China are pretty much all Santa Clause (compliments of a huge Chinese beer company). The company pretty much has decorated our city with the same picture of a large Santa with a blonde haired woman on his lap. The only other signs of Christmas is at the local McDonald's and Pizza Huts where Chinese girls serve in Santa mini-dresses, and the occasional grocery store decorations. As a marketing major, I'm ashamed.
I wanted to know more about celebrating Christmas in China and my best source of information is always my students. So I began to ask around. In class one, many students were of the thought that Jesus was from America and he was somehow friends with Father Christmas. They concluded that they must live near each other and work together. (Remember this is university level). At that point I completely changed my Christmas lesson plan. They got a handout from the Book.
As a reminder I teach 8 classes of 50-60 students so in a normal week I see about 400 students. I teach every lesson 8 times over, so this week I was able to act out/read/sing Christmas to 400 students. If you know me, I am a horrible singer, but my students love my voice. So I performed Silent Night, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and O Holy Night in the classroom. They received a handout with the entire story (fill in the blanks to keep them alert) and we talked about the origins of Christmas traditions such as the tree (from Germany), Santa Claus (from Myra/Turkey), and the term 'X-mas'(from Greece)(which is what the beer company used). I was able to get a world map and show those countries as well as Israel and Egypt and it's proximity to China. We also talked about Wise Men from the 'East'. I pointed out that America was not even close to being discovered at this time, and that Jesus never went to the US. At one point in the classroom I started to tear up when I was describing a manger for my ESL students.
The students were fully engaged during their two hour class and many came to multiple class sessions.
On Saturday the team of 7 threw a enormous Christmas bash in our apartments. We all live stacked upon one another so someone coined it the 'Tower of Christmas' and had our students sign-up to come in 20 minutes increments to move up the Tower of Christmas. On the 3rd floor there was the Story of Christmas, on the 5th floor there was star ornament making, and on the 6th floor there was dancing and singing. The students would stay in each apartment for 20 minutes and then move up the tower. The festivities started at 11am and the last group left at 9:40pm. We were exhausted but the new group of students running in to our homes totally excited was always rejuvenating. I'm not doing it justice, but please know that the hundreds and hundreds of students experienced a stellar party. The Father was really working in our team and in the students. Some Chinese teachers heard about the party and came to help. It was really an incredible time that will hopefully open the door for many conversations in the future.
And finally... Last night we had a Christmas eve dinner and service with the foreigners serving here in Nanchang. The Word was read in 4 different languages and we sang, thought for our students during this time, our families at home, and people serving all over the world. We sang and the sound was absolutely beautiful. At one point I looked out of the window in the conference room (at a local University) and a crowd of Chinese students had gathered to hear the singing they heard from the street.
Being around such amazing, committed, and loving teammates and Chinese friends has made missing this holiday season with family a little easier. We have today (Monday) off because of our contract, but our students are in classes. Tomorrow when you are celebrating, I will be teaching a full day in the classroom. I'm excited to teach tomorrow and have follow-up conversations. After that I'll be giving finals and then we'll have time off for the Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year plans include a mini-tour of India, staying with Indian contacts there. We (four of us) are finishing our time in Kolkata to work in the homes of Mother Teresa, but we don't have a contact there. If you have someone you know in Kolkata, I'd love to take them out to dinner. Then we're heading to Thailand for a conference, and I'll be going with some of my girlfriends back to Koh Payam the island that I went to for tsunami relief. I am so excited to see the nationals there again. A bungalow on the beach is $2.50/night, so we're spending a week there. Big spenders I know.
Well friends that's it. It's time for Christmas morning. We put a 20 kuai cap on each others gifts (about $2 US) so I'm excited to see the creativity. I'm attaching a picture my teammate Dan took last night when I was yakking away telling a story. Just put this face to these words and it's like I'm in person ;)