This is not my first Ch*istmas to miss being at home and I'm sure it won't be my last but I am sure it was my most memorable and most profound. New traditions were started and the depth of the reality of celebrating Ch*istmas in China has been very moving. I haven't talked about H*M much on my blog in efforts to be sensitive but today, today I will share with you my thoughts on the last few weeks.
First, let me say, we expats (expatriates- people who live in another country) know how to party it up. Between school, fellowship and friends, it's been a busy time. There have been graduations ceremonies to attend, programs to watch, services to plan, carols to sing...I think I've been to something like 9 parties (I'm all baked out). I've had the opportunity to be involved in a couple of different types Ch*istmas parties. One where we gave gifts to some very underpriviledged Chinese families (where we had the attendance of several city officials and the possibility to start up some sort of repeated outreach) and then a C. Eve party designed for English speaking Chinese and other expats (I helped lead wors*ip/MC/plan it- a good learning experience). Both with the purpose to teach those in attendance why we celebrate Ch*istmas and what it means. For C. Eve/Day, the singles from my fellowship had a sleepover/gift exchange/eat all day/movie marathon party. I was able to skype with my family and open our gifts together. It's been a busy, wonderful time.
And just like in America, it's so easy to get caught up in the doing, that you almost get too busy to remember the reason for celebrating in the first place. So easy. Except...it's not. I mean, I was just as busy this month as I was every other December back home. I had as many, maybe even more, things to attend and prepare for but in between all the programs and parties and ceremonies, it was always very clear that Ch*istmas was different here. China doesn't celebrate Ch*istmas. I mean, the stores try. They had a few signs here and there in English announcing Ch*istmas sales. And every once in awhile I came across one wishing me a Happy or Merry somthing or other, but out side of that, it's a normal month, week, day. I mean, imagine. The holiday that many people in America spend months planning for...it's not even celebrated here. It was very surreal.
So, when I went to our student's Ch*istmas program and they acted out the nativity, I cried. Not because I haven't seen it a bazillion times, but because...I don't know. Because I'm living in a place that doesn't understand the beauty of the nativity. Or the meaning. I'm living in a place where people haven't even heard the story. EVER. At one of our parties, we had several people say that they had never heard (much less understood) why we celebrated Ch*istmas until that moment.
See, to you this probably sounds normal. Yes, of course Jen. You're living in China, it's not their custom, of course they don't know. But living here, where things are so normal, so westernized, so close to being like home, it's truly mindblowing to me to hear people in such a huge city of 8 million people to say that they have no idea what Ch*istmas is about. I mean, you expect that in the boondocks or jungles or farmland, but in a city with a huge expat community (who all celebrate this holiday)? The implications of all of that I won't go into but needless to say, it hurts my heart.
I have purposely left H*M out of my blogs but I hope you've been able to read between the lines and realize that my happiness here is totally because of H*S provision. HE has taken wonderful care of me. And this week has been a perfect reminder of how far HE had to come to do that.