Lauren Wilcox has a degree in English from the University of Portsmouth, and is teaching at a language centre as part of the 2017 Teach China Graduate Program. Lauren’s been in China for over a year, and over the coming weeks she’ll be sharing some of her China experiences to date, both at school and on her travels.
So when are you home for Christmas…?
One question I’m often asked by people back in England is, “When are you coming home for Christmas?” and when I tell them that I’m celebrating it here in China, I’m always greeted with the same response, “I could never be away for Christmas!” That was also my first thought when it sank in that I wouldn’t be in England for Christmas, with my parent’s cooking, awful cracker jokes and ‘what order your presents need to be opened in’ tradition. But, I’m spending this Christmas in China, creating new traditions with my colleagues, and stretching out Christmas to a whole Decembers worth of festive fun!
Friends become Family
China is much like a University themed Christmas, but with a better salary. You still may have to drink your mulled wine from a unicorn mug, decorate your apartment with budget baubles and use an oven that might cremate or undercook your Christmas dinner. But you get to spend it with friends that have become family over the time you’ve spent in China and stream Christmas adverts on your laptop. After all, it’s not really Christmas until you’ve seen the Cola advert and had your heartstrings pulled by the John Lewis advert, is it?
Shopping for the Christmas Tree and Decorations
My first mission was to buy a Christmas tree. Although some of the shopping malls have been playing Christmas music since March, China isn’t the most clued up when it comes to Christmas. My local Walmart has half an aisle of Christmas decorations, which is mostly full of weird Christmas plush toys. So, I asked my housemate to come ‘grocery shopping’ with me after work and ‘accidentally’ ended up at the Christmas aisle, picking up everything that sparkled.
A 3ft tree, 2 packs of fairy lights, a box of questionable baubles, a wreath-like object and what I can only describe as a ‘glittery flower’ for the top of the tree later, I left Walmart smiling like a Cheshire cat.
A Mulled Wine Party
My second mission was to try mulled wine for the first time (I know, how have I ever celebrated Christmas without it?!) So, we threw a mulled wine evening. My housemate and I filled our apartment with foreign teachers and the Chinese teaching staff, our principle and cheesy Christmas music.
We introduced ‘Cards Against Humanity’ to the TA’s and had to get creative by roasting marshmallows over tea light candles and making litres of mulled wine in slow cookers. (Life hack – slow cookers are great for making mulled wine and keeping it warm!)
Next on the calendar was cookie decorating! A few of us got together in the morning and baked up a batch of cookies. We doubled up on the mixture so you can imagine how many biscuits we made! One of my colleagues had forethought and bought Christmas themed cookie cutters online before-hand so we spent the morning rolling, cutting and baking/eating the broken ones and the dough.
That evening a group of us ordered food in, made more mulled wine and got to work decorating the cookies. I’m not sure I’ve ever consumed so much sugar in such a short space of time, but it was worth it. I had never even thought about a cookie decorating night before I came to China, so this was a first for me and I’m hoping I can take this new tradition back to England with me one day.
Christmas at School
The training school I work at also allows us to teach ‘seasonal lessons’ throughout the year. This includes Easter, Halloween and Christmas. It’s great because it shows our students how the western world celebrate different holidays. The lessons teach vocabulary and a grammar point relating to the holiday, usually a video or a song and then a craft. This year I will be making snowmen with my higher juniors and a Christmas lantern with my lower juniors!
Christmas Day in China
For Christmas day this year, I’ll be spending it at a colleagues house, with everyone else we work with, having a Christmas feast, playing card games and drinking more mulled wine. We’ve also arranged a Secret Santa between all of the staff in my school, where you buy a gift up to 50RMB and anonymously deliver it. I was given a hot water bottle – very handy for the coming winter months here in Fuzhou.
I may not be celebrating a typically ‘traditional Christmas’ this year, but it has been the most memorable one to date!