Today we passed our first Chinese Christmas. We did not have a white Christmas, but there was a bit of a dust storm last night (if we just listened to the wind and tried not to breath the dusty air, we could have imagined that it was a blizzard!). In addition to this being our first Christmas in China, there is another reason to memorialize this time. It was a year ago on the 23rd that we first found out that we were coming to China. That's right, it happened in a very fast flurry of two months! There have been a few events lately that led us up to this momentous Christmas.
On Thursday, Ari had his very first Christmas function at school. Ari is the only foreigner in the class, but as we have mentioned, it is popular to celebrate Christmas in some form or fashion here. All the parents were invited to listen to their kids sing strangely worded Christmas songs (Ari argued vehemently with me the other day for the weird words he was taught to We Wish You A Merry Christmas), and watch them dance. Ari surprised us with very smooth and sleek dance moves, and we were secretly pleased to note that he seems to be the most interesting child in his class. We had already suspected this from the reports that his teachers give us from time to time. "Ari has not been participating with exercise time. He has been hiding behind the slide" or "Ari thinks its funny to put his rice in other children's bowls during meal time." Aiyi came with us to see him perform and she seemed to quite enjoy it. We were also able to see the girl in Ari's class that he has deemed "girly" enough to be pretty. We suspect that he has the slightest of a crush on her!
I have been playing piano a lot for the church over Christmas. This poor audience has had/will have me for four straight Sundays. I still am not all that great with learning several new pieces of sheet music per week so the mistakes are definitely abundant. However I am getting better, and am learning to accept the fact that it takes time to recover from eight years of not playing. One of the most fun things recently was playing a piano duet with another MCCer for the Christmas Eve service. We played Carol of the Bells, and it went quite well.
After the boys were in bed last night, James and I set about decorating the tree and wrapping the presents. Our tree is partly edible, with hanging tangerines and marshmallows. In spite of the fact that I caught an unfortunate and exceptionally unpleasant cold and have spent the last 24 hours mouth-breathing, it was quite fun to watch the boys come out of their room this morning. James decided that the traditional Santa Claus story is boring, so the boys now believe that Santa Claus is a fur trapper who rides a dog sled and only leaves presents for children who leave furs under the tree on Christmas Eve. They were very excited this morning to see that the furs were indeed gone, and that there were presents in their place.
Tomorrow we will be hosting a Christmas party at our house with our Chinese friends. The boys will be re-enacting the Christmas story for everyone and we will eat pizza, jiaozi (Chinese dumplings), and chicken. We are looking forward to it quite a bit.
We have discovered that there are some advantages to celebrating Christmas in a country that doesn't really celebrate it. 1) Because it is popular to celebrate Christmas, everything goes on sale to try and convince people that they should buy Christmas gifts. In North America, everything goes on sale after Christmas. 2) You can invite anyone over and no one has special plans. Friends can come over and their parents have no idea that today is Christmas and that they are theoretically supposed to be together with family. 3) It is really worthwhile to say "Sheng dan jie kuai le" (Merry Christmas) to a Chinese person, because they are genuinely surprised to hear it and then look quite happy about being included (in our experience).
I saw a really great English sign that just went up recently in our neighborhood. It is a barber shop whose name is "Adoring Ancientry Haircuts". Ancientry? How far back shall we go? Paleolithic man? Care for a Confucius cut? A Socrates cut? Nebechudnezzar? Queen Nephrititi? You know where to go!
(For the record, I'm not writing this to make fun of their English, because I know that I make equally silly mistakes in Chinese. Rather, I am noting how funny it sounds in English)