Christmas. Made In China.

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Christmas sneaked up on me, like the eerie whisper of a soundless ghost.  Whilst I was following doctor’s orders and for a whole week only moved between bed and bathroom, and the following week manoeuvred between flat and school on crutches and using taxis, Wal-Mart shot into action.  The special offers which usually blocked the entrance to the store were shelved to make room for all things Christmas: Christmas trees and Christmas decorations, Santa hats and Christmas headbands, and cute, adorable Christmas cuddly toys.  In a country where the religious meaning of Christmas is taboo, Christmas – although still small scale – is as commercial as it comes… But then again, are not ‘all things Christmas’ made in China anyway…?

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Almost overnight Christmas trees had sprouted in prominent places and festive lighting along the streets filled Hangzhou with Christmas warmth.  The downtown bakeries offered Christmas inspired cakes, gingerbread houses and other Christmas goodies; Starbucks added a ‘Christmas Turkey Sandwich’ to the menu.  And Hangzhou opened its First International Christmas Market…  It was distinctly beginning to look a lot  like Christmas, in Europe…

This year I decided to enjoy Christmas, to rediscover some of the fun, the merriment that Christmas used to bring.  A tour de force, I knew…  As if positive thinking and wishing would be enough to disperse the dark, ominous clouds permanently lingering on the periphery of my existence.  I even fleetingly considered investing in a Christmas tree, to jolly up my pretty bare flat, but as I would most definitely NOT be spending Christmas Day at home, it seemed an extravagance too far… On the other hand, buying a selection of Christmas headbands to wear in my lessons in the week running up to Christmas sounded an excellent idea.  I would devote my energy on spreading Christmas cheer at school. Within the confines of China’s sentiment about religious festivals, of course, so no mention of the real message of Christmas, peace on earth and for all mankind.

 

We watched Christmas videos explaining  British Christmas customs: advent calendars with opening doors revealing stars and presents and other Christmas materialistic goodies; writing Christmas cards and letters to Santa; baking and eating mince pies; hanging Christmas stockings on the mantle piece ready for Santa and a traditional Christmas lunch including Christmas crackers which were probably made in China… We crafted reindeer hats in the English Club, and turned the Gingerbread Man tale (still Christmassy because it is the only time of the year anyone bothers to bake gingerbread biscuits) into a deliciously alternative play full of Grandmas and Mr Tigers and Mr Crocodiles and classrooms brimming with excited and smiley Gingerbread men!! Instead of subjecting the kids to a tame version of ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’, I taught them a super energetic Christmas song that had the whole class rocking and dancing (including me, which goes without saying.  Fun was an excellent anaesthetic for my knee…) to the jingles of my glittery Christmas hair band and frowns from the Head of English (who happens to be my assistant in some lessons..).  Let’s liven up the joint, it’s Christmas after all.  A time to be jolly, a time to have fun!!!!

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This just left me to cope with the dreaded ‘day’.  Did I want to party with the 25-year-old somethings, hanging out in bars and getting merry?  Or spend a fortune on overpriced food in the venues in town that were opening their doors to the Christmas cheer?  Maybe someone would throw an impromptu last minute Champagne breakfast, followed by turkey and the works??  Some people only get their act together within a whisker of running out of time, I hoped…

In the end salvation came in the form of an Italian chef in Shanghai who offered to cook me dinner on Christmas Eve and lunch on Christmas Day…  So I booked myself into a snazzy hotel in central Shanghai and on arrival found myself being upgraded to an executive suite!!!  An unexpected Christmas gift I was not going to deny myself.  After months of sleeping on a hard Chinese bed, I had simply forgotten the sheer pleasure of sinking into the opulence of a soft mattress and pillows, and the crisp white linen of top-rated Western hotels.  Christmas was definitely turning out to be a visit to the lap of luxury…

But even the best laid plans do not always come to fruition and my very efforts to avoid spending Christmas Day on my own were badly thwarted.  Christmas Eve dinner was spectacular in its simplicity: pasta cooked as only the Italians can, followed by delectable Italian biscotti (or cantuccini) dunked and soaked in our glasses of wine and a finale of Limoncello… Having been seduced by the pleasures of his Italian cooking, I was not surprised that my Italian chef’s culinary skills were in demand on Christmas Day after all.  With just one day’s notice, the chef had been asked to conjure up a Christmas lunch and dinner for 100 guests by a rather influential figure in Shanghai…  And if you want to do well in China, some requests are declined at your own peril..

So instead of enjoying a private Christmas lunch for two, I enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of my hotel room and indulged in the bliss of writing..  And after checking out, I simply moved location and joined the Starbucks army of Christmas singletons.  In a coffee shop full of people, with each and every one of them lost to their own mobile world, I would be guaranteed to have virtual silence and  no interruptions…  Perfect for letting the creative juices flow…

It was a peaceful Christmas after all.

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4 thoughts on “Christmas. Made In China.

  1. Doreen Frusher

    Well, it turned out ok in the end, how strange, a good insight into how the world sees us through their eyes! Have a good New Year and look after that knee! Best wishes, Doreen

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    1. lievelee Post author

      Yes, in a strange way it was a perfect Christmas Day…

      On the other hand, under the radar and less noticeable, there is the religious side of Christmas… Although religion is not promoted, there are still lots of Christians here(and Buddhists and Muslims…) and I could have joined a Carol Service if I had wanted to but since my Chinese has not improved since my arrival about a year ago, I probably would not have been able to join in with any of their songs…

      Best wishes for the New Year to you and your family.

      Lieve

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  2. Alison and Don

    The hotel sounds wonderful – especially the bed. This from someone currently sleeping on a hard Mexican bed. We ignore Christmas when we’re travelling, and let the day go by quietly. I was not even successful Skyping family.
    Alison

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    1. lievelee Post author

      The bed was…

      But Christmas is one of these days when loneliness just feels every more lonely.. Not a day I look forward to now.

      On the upside, I managed to have brief conversations with my kids albeit with blurry pictures and interrupted voices but that was as expected… lots of people trying their luck to connect with loved ones all over the world.

      Best wishes for a healthy and fun packed New Year. More adventures awaiting us, I am sure…

      Lieve

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