The holidays can be stressful. There’s no getting around it. From searching for the perfect gift (something I obsess over and start working on in September!) to decorating and wrapping, to holiday parties, there is always lingering things on my to-do list. When you live overseas, some of that stress lessens, as the hectic hustle and bustle of mall shopping in non-existent (okay, in China, it exists, but as the status quo, since you’re sharing the mall with a million other shoppers on any given Saturday) and you’re used to being flexible with traditions. (In the States, we *always* had a full-sized, live Christmas tree, but now that we are constantly on the move, we’ve got an adorable 3-foot tree that stores away on top of an armoire eleven months out of the year, but does the trick.)
But, this year, I ran into a whole new level of holiday craziness. No, it wasn’t the four parties in seven days. That was actually pretty fun: one fancy house party for sixty, one staff party for eighty, one cookie exchange that I baked not one, but *two* kinds of cookies for (the only place I spent less time than the kitchen is the gym!) and then a low-key, enjoyable evening with friends to wrap up the hectic holiday week.
So, if four parties wasn’t the cause of my quickly graying hair, what was? Santa. Plain and simple. It was Santa.
He’s a staple of Christmas parties and was scheduled to make an appearance at not one, but both of the events that I hosted this year. With that in mind, before Thanksgiving, I was checking on my red velvet suit, coal black boot covers and white wig/beard combo. Last year, it was borrowed by some folks at work for their personal Christmas party and it then spent the rest of the year at their place. When I went in search of it a few months ago, I was told by the borrowers that yes, they had it, no problem. Then, once I tore of the penultimate page of my calendar and was facing down the holiday season, I again inquired about the suit. This time, the news was not good. What the borrowers thought was my Santa suit turned out to be a Mario Brothers costume! (I know. You are currently wondering how in the world the two could be mistaken, but without asking too many questions, I’m chalking it up to seeing a lot of red fabric in a bag and assuming it belonged to Santa, rather than Mario. (Yes, I did just have to look up which brother wore red. Thank you, Google.)
That left me a week before Santa was supposed to make his inaugural appearance and with a middle-aged Italian plumber in place of a jolly old fat man with a massive white beard. I don’t think I’d be able to pull that one off, even for the toddlers!
Talk about ramping up the holiday stress! Four days and counting, with no Santa.
Chengdu was searched, high and low, to no avail. Malls were walked. Markets were scoured. Schools were called. Hotels were contacted. Nothing.
Just as I was starting to contemplate two holiday parties with no guest of honor, a Christmas miracle appeared out of the fog (pollution?). A colleague mentioned that her apartment complex had a holiday party the weekend before, where Father Christmas made an unexpected appearance (along with dancing pandas and dinosaurs reenacting “What Does the Fox Say?” and scantily clad girls gyrating to Christmas classics, but that is an entirely different story!) This colleague’s husband made a few calls and sent a few emails and within hours we were in possession of a FABULOUS Santa suit. (And believe me, it was fabulous. The white around the collar and the boots was rainbow glittered and the belt was gold and just sparkly enough to summon unicorns, but I was in no position to negotiate my suit accessories. Fabulous Santa it would be!)
In the end, my two volunteer Santas suited up and did a marvelous job, entertaining the young and the less young alike. So, while others are pondering their last minute gift shopping needs (I did have to run and do stocking stuffer shopping at the last minute, on my lunch break today), I’m using Google to search out the nearest hair salon to our hotel in Honolulu. Santa may be blessed with snowy white hair, but after this holiday season, I’ve been gifted with stress-given gray!