The past few weeks have been fun and festive-filled! According to my Chinese co-workers, China has really upped its commercialization of Christmas in recent years. A couple of weeks after Thanksgiving, the Christmas lights started going up around Beijing. Walking into any shopping mall you could see many decorations on the escalators and walls. Our apartment complex even had a Christmas tree in its lobby a few days before the 25th. Tacky Christmas sweaters were being sold at the counterfeit market. I was still able to get a gingerbread latte with a snowman at Starbucks and holiday sales were being advertised.
gingerbread latte at Starbucks!
Christmas decorations outside a mall
But perhaps the most interesting reflection of spending Christmas in China, is realizing that the holiday is about celebrating the birth of a religious figure in a country that has no organized religion. Therefore, Christmas in China is of a very different nature. For the Chinese, the holiday is only attached to gift-giving and party-throwing and singing. I found it incredible how well my students could sing Christmas songs but they had no context as to what “O, holy night” or “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” is really about. Billy and i were contemplating getting a tree, but found it surprisingly difficult to find an inexpensive one around Beijing. But that didn’t stop us from celebrating the holidays around the apartment. Pandora Christmas radio became my life’s background music for the three weeks leading up to Christmas. At work, Christmas was being promoted all around and we had a Christmas party for our students over the weekend. Some of our featured classes included learning about some sing-along Christmas songs and learning how to make ginger-bread cookies which really made me feel like it was the holiday season. Our center put up a Christmas tree and had Christmas lights around the center and the party was filled with holiday games and more sing-along songs. Students brought their young children and one of our international teachers dressed up as Santa Clause. I soon discovered that every one of my male-international friends was designated “Santa Claus” at their center, including Billy. Although I wasn’t able to see Billy be Santa Claus during his party, it appeared that all of the children loved him and thought he was the real deal.
office holiday party
student holiday party
Luckily, Christmas Eve and Christmas day fell on our days off from work. On December 23rd, Billy and I went to dinner with two of our close friends, Patrick and Claire. We thought an appropriate festive meal would be going out for Hot Pot. Essentially, hot-pot involves a huge pot of boiling water and raw things being dropped inside of the boiling water until they are cooked to deliciousness. It’s perfect for a cold Beijing winter because the dinner involves a lot of heat. Anything from lamb to fish eggs can be dropped in the water and it’s one of the most fun winter-time outings for Beijingers.
team building hot pot with my collegues
hot pot with friends
spicy broth and mild broth
Never thought I would actually be able to say this but, this man is literally doing a noodle dance at the table next to us.
On December 24th, Billy and I headed to the Peninsula Beijing for a fun night of holiday celebration. My parents graciously gave us the gift of staying at the “Peninsula Hotel” in Beijing for one evening. Staying in a Western hotel that really knows how to celebrate Christmas, made being away from family a bit easier. Inside the hotel were a life-size ginger bread house, a huge Christmas tree and “deck the halls” was playing in the background. Upon checking in, we put on our swim suits and headed to the heated indoor pool and leisurely hung out there for a while. We then headed to the spa and got deep moisture facials. Billy was convinced that the only reason he was getting a facial was because the title was called, “manly facial.” The facials were so wonderful for our dry skin from this Beijing winter! It was such a treat for us! That evening we dressed up and took part in a delicious Christmas buffet with lots of Champagne!
festive holiday program
Christmas tree in the lobby
We decided to load up all our presents and bring them to the hotel with us to make it feel more like Christmas. On Christmas day, we played festive music, drank mimosas and leisurely opened our presents from friends and family. I feel so beyond blessed to have people in my life that helped make this day so special!
East meets West outside of the Peninsula
On Christmas evening, we headed to a restaurant called, “Grandma’s Kitchen” with a group of our expat friends. I don’t think there is better way to celebrate Christmas than having meat loaf and mashed potatoes! After dinner, we headed to a very, very small bar called “Harry’s minibar.”The name is appropriate because it truly is “mini”. I mean six people can fit inside, which is excellent because that is how many people were in our group. Harry, the owner, is a small Chinese man with a HUGE personality. He was offering us free drinks and asked us if anyone in our party wanted to go to the gay bar with him later that evening. While it was tempting, around 11 we called it a night and headed home. \
friends hanging out with Harry at his mini bar
Just like any holiday-season, it seems to approach quickly and leave quickly. It’s hard to believe Christmas is over in China but here is to 2014! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Chinese New Year! God is so good!