Houston Community News >> Christmas in China

12/25/2006 by J Lynn-- Merry Christmas everyone!! It's Christmas morning and I just finished talking to my parents and I thought I'd send some more love home (and to all of you everywhere else in the world!). Sorry I haven't posted for so long - things have been busy and very happy in Chengdu these past few weeks. With the Christmas holiday coming up especially, I was really busy. I've found a great group of friends and have even started dating a guy here - an American - and he's a Marine security guard at the US consulate. His name is Jason and he's a really great guy.

One good thing about hanging out with the Marines is that my roomie and I have gotten to enjoy some of their perks. The US government pays for a lovely house for them, complete with heating, a full kitchen (it has an OVEN!), pool table, big screen TV, bar, a small gym, and a washing machine and DRYER. Emily and I started eying their kitchen awhile ago, and came up with the idea of cooking a full Christmas dinner for them and some other friends. The boys seemed to have no problem letting us use their kitchen and even gave us money from their entertainment/wellbeing/some kind of budget given them by the government. We decided to do the dinner on Christmas Eve and started planning music, decorations, and appetizers, I started planning a menu, and the guys organized a secret Santa gift exchange and went on various shopping trips to round up all the ingredients we needed. Luckily, there are a few grocery stores with imported items, so we were able to get things like nutmeg and cream cheese. I was really nervous to cook. I'd helped my mom before, but I'd never even attempted to do any of the dishes completely on my own, and I knew I was going to miss having a lifeline to mom with questions like "can I substitute bread crumbs for that??" and "does this taste right?" Somehow I didn't think anyone back home would really enjoy staying up all night fielding my miscellaneous cooking questions.

As it turned out, there was no need to worry. I did some cooking the day before and got up early in the morning and was done by 1pm (for dinner at 7). We ordered ham and turkey from a local restaurant that advertised a Christmas dinner and the driver picked it up right before dinner. Emily made a chocolate pie, cookies, dumplings, and stuffed mushrooms, and Jason contributed with a cheese ball and crackers and apple cobbler. I gave the oven quite a workout too: sweet potatoes, corn casserole, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, cookies, mashed potatoes... even found a gluwein recipe. Unfortunately, it seems the we were all thinking that we were cooking for 20, not 8. There was so much food that no one even wanted to look at dessert by the end of it. Seriously. I think two cookies and one piece of chocolate pie were eaten and the rest we planned to take to a friend's dinner the next day. With all the leftovers from dinner, I don't think the marines' cook will need to come in for a week.

Another thing we missed out on because we were so full was the Chinese Christmas eve celebration. The Chinese do celebrate Christmas. You hear Christmas carols in all the grocery stores, see Santa hats on waitresses, and can buy fake Christmas trees, ornaments, and wreaths. The idea of it is a bit different though. Rather than thinking of it as a religious holiday or as a day to spend with family and loved ones, the Chinese think of Christmas as just a big party. They get together with friends and eat and drink and head out on the town. No one gets class or work off on Christmas day. Poor Em had to go in to work today, but I lucked out and have so many foreigners in my class they decided to let us make the day up later. Even with things to do the next day, Christmas Eve gets crazy anyway (ha ha though it shuts down before midnight) . In Chengdu (not sure about the rest of China) people buy blow-up hammers and bats from street vendors and head to the town square, where they all celebrate by hitting complete strangers with the weapons. I was so excited to go, but we didn't get finished until 10, and the streets were so crowded it would have taken us at least an hour to get anywhere near the festivities, and then we would have been targeted by a million people with blowup weapons for being foreigners. After all, Christmas is "our" holiday, so we deserve the brunt of the beatings. I have a friend who promised to take pictures, so hopefully I'll get some up here or will at least have them by the time I head home.

Speaking of pictures, I apologize for the lack of the pink dress pictures from the variety show back in Yantai. I never actually got pictures of myself in that. It was such a ridiculous evening and so frantic and unorganized, coupled with the fact that I left less than a month later, that if there were any pictures taken, I never got to see any of them. Too bad... all evidence of my night as a real-life Barbie will have to stay in China.

Anyway, I just want to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

(Contributed by J Lynn)