Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp

Merry Christmas from Kaifeng!

Welcome Christmas, bring your cheer, cheer to all Chinese far and near. Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas day will always be, just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.

Merry Christmas, USA! At the time of posting this blog it is officially December 25th in China.

The stockings were hung by the Lao Wai with care...

This week brought with it several auspicious events, which I have most joyously accepted. First and foremost, this week was the last week of instruction for my second year conversation classes. Since we actually finished learning everything I had wanted to teach some two weeks ago, this week was simply a holiday week. I started the Christmas class by teaching them some excellent Christmas songs. We started with Deck the Halls, but the words are a bit difficult for them. After going over the meaning of the words they got the hang of it and were singing along merrily. After the warm-up we moved on to Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which is much easier for them to understand and sing along with. The third song of our Chinese Christmas Sing was I’ll Be Home for Christmas, which many of them commented on as being a good song to go to sleep to. Finally, I played them I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, which they thought was absolutely hilarious. I also described Mistletoe as “my favorite way to get more kisses.”

Next I showed them some family Christmas pictures from years past. They really enjoyed seeing my family, and commenting on some of the funny faces we made and strange things we did. Of course they thought that my mother’s Christmas tree was very beautiful. I ended by showing them the two newest additions to our family, Onna and Parker. I showed them a picture of Onna in a Santa outfit smiling at the camera and instantly received many awes and screams from my classes. “Isn’t she just too cute?” I asked them, receiving many affirmative answers. The sound of their awes as I pressed the forward arrow and showed them Onna and Parker in their Santa outfits is indescribable. Having twins in China (especially a boy and a girl) is a very special happenstance, and my students loved that I am related to twins.

The two cutest babies I know!

We ended class by watching that grand old Dr. Seuss classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” It’s amazing, I can watch the Grinch 5 times in a week and still love every moment of it! As you can see above, I find the closing line to be particularly poignant… and there is something downright poetic about finishing my classes with “The End” showing on the television screen… The students really loved the Grinch, too. They kept telling me that his transformation was spectacular and that the story was really touching. I played the story with subtitles on and as the narrator reads the last lines, I could often hear them whispering along with it: “heart to heart and hand in hand.” It was too funny.

The second wonderful event that occurred this week was the arrival of a Christmas present from my family—a new digital camera! It’s shocking, I know, but most of the pictures on this blog have not actually been taken by me. My camera is an old workhorse which requires four AA batteries. Chinese batteries are not very good and die after about 15 photos, so I haven’t really been using it. I am, however, now the proud owner of a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1… and it’s amazing. Wait till you see some of these photos! Expect many more photos in the coming months.

The third wonderful event of the week was a banquet held for us on the 23rd. The banquet was hosted by our college deans and teaching assistants and lasted for about two hours. Chinese banquets are always very interesting because they inevitably lead to me drinking a lot of Chinese baijiu and getting very drunk. At the dinner, we ended up singing many Christmas carols for the gathered Chinese individuals. There weren’t many vegetable dishes at the table, so of course the baijiu was hitting me even harder than it might have normally. It was a good time, and the two hours passed very quickly.

The Chinese students, packed in like sardines for our Christmas service!

Finally, earlier this evening we held our Christmas Eve party, to which we invited many Chinese people. The official event only lasted about 20 minutes, and included several readings from the Bible and listening to some of the more religious Christmas carols.

Learning the meaning of Christmas.

It was after the official event that the real fun started… lots of students talking and mingling with each other. Many of them brought fruit and candy as presents, and so we munched and chatted.

Ashley was going to feed Winifred, but as I tried to take a picture she pulled away...

In China, the pronunciation of Christmas Eve is very close to the pronunciation of the word apple. This has lead to the creation of a tradition to give apples to each other on Christmas Eve. It’s a bit silly, but cute.

It's an apple with some Chinese words written on it... Isn't it lovely? It costs 2x or 3x as much as a normal apple.

The mingling was a really good time as I tried desperately to get my students to take pictures in Santa hats and such. We also had some younger kids there to observe the ritual that is Christmas, and on the whole I think I got some pretty funny pictures!

This is Josh's TA's daughter-- she loved the hat!

He was really excited to wear the hat, but then refused to smile!

This is my student Sofia. She's generally a real badass and it was hard to get her to take this photo.

Winifred was ready and willing to put on the cap.

Ashley and I, rockin' around the Christmas tree.

After about an hour of mingling one of my students, Winifred, brought us a fire-lantern. Fire-lanterns are used in China on holidays to send wishes into the sky.

Lighting the lantern.

Traditionally people gather around the lantern and write their wishes down. After everyone in the room had written their wishes we went outside into the bitter cold and began lighting the lantern.

Holding onto the lit lantern and preparing to send it off into the heavens.

To our great surprise it managed to climb high in the sky, getting smaller and smaller until it was out of sight. I managed to grab some great pictures and video, so please enjoy.

Tomorrow we will gather to open presents. To be honest, I am really missing my family this year. This is my second Christmas away from home, but my time in Japan was well-spent knowing that on the 26th my sister would be arriving to spend a week traveling with me. As I lay down this Christmas Eve it is with the thought that my family is some 5000 miles away in a warm house playing with two spectacular babies, an amazing young scholar, three wonderful siblings, two caring SOs, two lovely parents, and a grandmother in a pear tree. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night

Merry Christmas, from all of us in Kaifeng!

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4 Responses to Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp

  1. Michael Durkin says:

    We miss you, too. Merry Christmas!

  2. Kevin Stolecki says:

    Merry Christmas *<):-)

  3. Judee Genetin says:

    Merry Christmas Sweetie! It just isn’t the same when you aren’t here. Miss you so much. I am glad that you are happy with the camera! Love you!

  4. Linda Marx says:

    Happy New Year, Jon Michael! Love your blog. So glad that you have a new camera!

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