Merry Christmas from China, round three.
After two Christmases in western China as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I would have told you with a rather high level of certainty that Shengdan Laoren would not be making another visit in my life. Oh, how wrong I was!
Granted, the holiday season in the Foreign Service bears little resemblance to that of a Peace Corps Volunteer. This year we had a whole like-minded community with which to celebrate, several Christmas parties to get us in the spirit and the good fortune to have access to pouch shipping, which allowed family and friends to send gifts knowing that they would make it without being riffled through by various post offices along the way.
Christmas in Idaho entailed a morning of gift opening at our place, followed by the lively and a bit chaotic gathering at my parents’ house, an afternoon nap and then a trip to Thad’s mom’s place for the evening. Throughout those various get-togethers, there is enough food to feed a small army, which to be fair, is what we comprise when the entire McDaniel family is all in a room together. (Over the last few weeks, as I’ve chatted with Mom about winter plans, she has twice mentioned that they might go tubing at Bogus Basin since no one is pregnant…that she knows of. Is this a bit of wishful thinking on Grandma Joycie’s part?)
Christmas is China is much mellower, lacking the bedlam created by young ones full of belief in Santa and sugar cookies. Family is still a part of the mix though, with calls home for the big day. (Apparently, every foreigner in China had the same idea this morning, as FaceTime was unusually choppy and computer-to-computer Skype was unusable. Thank goodness for regular ol’ Skype long distance.)
Now, as bread is baking in my brand new bread-maker, I am curled up on my couch with Ellen Degeneres’ latest book and a wheat-filled lap warmer making me just a tad bit cozier, as Thad loads his Revolutionary War themed video game and we contemplate reheating the last of the Christmas Eve lasagna on our pretty, new plates. (The bread warmer was a welcome surprise, as a loaf of bread is astonishingly difficult to find in China. I can buy several slices of very soft, almost cake-like white bread, but it will cost $3US for just four slices. The other choices are small loaves of bread at local bakeries that are always filled with unsavory surprises. I lovingly call these loaves “shit-in-the-middle” bread. Sometimes it is a red bean paste that hides inside the crust of a seemingly safe loaf of bread; at other times, that bread has a ribbon of raisins and custard slicing through the center. None of these breads are fit for a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. From now on, all bread in my house will be Ross-made bread!)
Is China Christmas the same as the one we would have in the US? Nope. No way. Not a bit. But, it is still Christmas in its own unique way and we get to spend it together as our little 2-family, so there will be no complaints from me. Not all are so lucky.
So, as the day winds down on our side of the world and many of you are just starting to celebrate, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.