Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas Palooza Chinese Style

In some ways, celebrating Christmas in a largely atheist country means that you have to get creative and be prepared for the heart melting moments when somebody receives an unexpected gift and the awkward times when the first-timers take it way overboard.

One of our American interns, Kenton, suggested that we should all go caroling at a nursing home. The staff were excited and started organizing practice choirs during lunch time. And then somehow, the day before our nursing home trip, we realized that they had switched "We wish you a Merry Christmas" to a Communist song instead. "From the East rose a red sun, and his name was Mao Ze Dong. He will save our people . . . " At least they got the Christmas theme of color red right on that count.

The old people were not too impressed with our multi-part rendition of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," but they really enjoyed it when we started handing out biscuits, bananas, and soap. They were so excited about the soap that some started eating it. The nursing home managers freaked out and confiscated the soaps. Luckily, we were not responsible for anybody's early demise. Some old people enthusiastically shared with us the stories from their glory or sad days, depending on whether they were the persecuted landlords or the uprising peasants. Others just wanted their picture taken with us and asked us to send it to their grandkids.

We also had our own Christmas party back at the office. The format was show-off-your-cooking potluck. In the ambitious spirit of Christmas, I made three apple pies the morning of, zipped up my mobile toaster oven in Lesley's gigantic suitcase and enlisted two friends to help me wheel it all the way to the office. Worst/ best idea ever.

People kept running over to turn off my oven because the pie was "getting brown." I explained that that is the point of baking but they would still sneak over to turn the dial. At the end, I just had to park myself as a guardian of the oven and conduct all my meetings there. Went home that night smelling like a pie. When it came time to eating it, people were confused. Then they figured it out. They each conjured up a pair of chopsticks (Asians, I know) and started fishing for the apple pieces through the lattice work. At the end, I had all pie, no apples.

We also did a White Elephant gift exchange at our office. A few days before the Christmas party, when I first explained to them the concept of a gag gift, the table fell silent. But this will be my first Christmas present . . . I don't want somebody's 2012 calendar. Other heads nodded in agreement. So HR came out with an official email decreeing that each present must be sparkly new, professionally wrapped, and worth at least 100 RMB. And they added more rules. Each person must be blindfolded and spun around before they reached the tree to pick their gifts. And they must pick their gifts within 5 seconds otherwise they miss out. Oh and if you wanted to steal somebody's gift, you had to complete a special mission.

It wasn't long before I figured out that all the missions had a similar theme: do something sexy. Yeah. Workplace sexual harassment is a non-existant concept here. I won't even mention my mission. Just something to do with a pole. But that nerf gun was worth it. Later in the day, an IT guy told me that he had never seen me so "womanly" before. Ha. Awkward.

Of course, the best part of Christmas was the constant reminders of what it was really about. It's not only about the wonderful nativity scenes you dressed up for or the retelling of one of the most important stories in our history. It's about being with your family and sharing what you were most grateful for this year - all made possible because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

Nativity set for a youth activity.