So I’ve had a lot of questions about Christmas in China and how its celebrated. While this may be my second Christmas here, it is my first year in Chinese primary school, which means working on Christmas day; a strange phenomenon to us Irish Catholics (and I use that term loosely), who are forbidden from venturing anywhere but a church on Christmas day (or the off license; in hope).
The lead up to Christmas here passed without much to note, apart from the odd Christmas carol in Wal-Mart and of course your average llama in a Santa suit.
Although the larger part of China are atheist (government fearing rather than God fearing), Christmas is becoming more popular in recent times, with an influx of cultural influence from the West. There are also some Chinese made modern traditions, such as giving the present of an apple on Christmas Eve because of the relationship between the words Chinese names, apple-ping guo 苹果 and Christmas Eve (literally peaceful night) ping’an ye 平安夜。 Following tradition, one of my students gave me the a large apple wrapped in some lovely wrapping paper, tied neatly with a ribbon.
The school where I work is ‘International’, which in China lends itself to a variety of different kinds of schools. In my case, it means that the school currently employs eight foreign teachers for an international English program; the students get English class with a Chinese English teacher and then Oral English class with a Foreign Teacher (in this case me). This means international festivals like Christmas are celebrated at school too.
While I was reluctant to work on Christmas Day, being welcomed by a gang of excited six-year-olds all fighting to hug me and wish me Merry Christmas wasn’t so bad. The kids were all wearing their Santa hats (which some of them had hand decorated with different things- one girl took an unusual take and decorated hers in seashells and cupcakes).
Our day consisted of goofing around singing Christmas songs (including the wonderful rip off of B-I-N-G-O),
dancing along with a video of dancing penguins and taking silly photos.
Everyday me and my co teacher swap an English word for a Chinese word-today’s word was photo bomb.
But of course the highlight of my final class of the day; skyping my big sis with my thirty-six students. I hooked the computer up the the big screen TV and after a couple of rings her smiley face appeared on the giant screen, and the mumble of excitement grew louder in the classroom.
I called some students up to talk to her face to face, and as they excitedly asked her “What do you like to eat? What can you do?” I observed with pride.
After the students had exhausted the conversational questions they have learned thus far we said bye to my sister but excitement of talking to her lasted the whole class.
The first time I showed the penguin video to one class, this student (who was also the culprit of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ from an earlier blog post) couldn’t contain himself any longer and leapt from his chair to dance.
After class was finished for the day I wandered to the canteen thinking Christmas at school hadn’t been so bad after all.
Finally it was time for my Christmas lunch and I caught myself thinking perhaps the food would even be a little special today too.
It seems my Christmas wish was in vain.
Happy Holidays lads!