Do you feel like you just haven’t gotten into the holiday spirit this year? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Celebrating holidays abroad
For some, not having to celebrate Christmas or being able to avoid all that holiday stress and family drama is one of the positive aspects of living abroad. But many people who live abroad also struggle at this time of year and quite a few fall into a holiday depression – not because holiday preparations are often stressful (even more so if you have to buy each ingredient on the list for your holiday dinner online), but rather because it’s just oh so hard to recreate that holiday atmosphere you had back home.
Christmas in China
In China, it’s hard because Christmas is taken out of the traditional context and put into a new one (I actually admire the way the Chinese embrace this holiday, just imagine people in the West starting to celebrate Spring Festival), and it can be hard because your Chinese spouse and family don’t know how to celebrate it.
Red Songs and a paper Christmas tree
For us, Christmas this year was putting up a teeny tiny paper Christmas tree while listening to Red (Communist) Songs my toddler son just happens to love more than the Christmas songs I grew up with (believe me, there’s no arguing with a 17-month old). I also made red paper stars and hung them up inside the big window in the living room. I chose red because for one, it’s an auspicious color in China and for two, I liked having some color in our living room. Also, white is a color associated with funerals in China, and although nobody would have said anything, I still thought red would make for a nice change. If you want to go with lighter colors for your holiday decorations in China, you can always choose silver, golden or any pastel color you can find.
I was very touched to find that my in-laws prepared Christmas presents for our son, because, as they put it, Christmas to us is like Spring Festival to them. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t wrap up the presents or that they didn’t put it under the Christmas tree, but instead gave it to our son beforehand. What matters is that they know about the importance of celebrating Christmas together.
Wishing you a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
On a different note: I’m excited to announce that in the new year I’ll feature a series on this blog where Jason Fung, author of “Beyond Eurasian & Hapa: Bridging a Chinese-Western Identity”, and I will talk about what it means to live and grow up bridging cultures.