Sunday, January 24, 2016

Happy Birthday, Santa! (Christmas in China)

I asked my Chinese friend if she knew why Americans celebrated Christmas and she exclained, "Oh, of course. Santas Birthday!" I laughed and then I realized that she wasn't kidding. This isn't too surprising due to the fact that China is a communistic country and religion for Chinese nationals isn't exactly "allowed." 
As a Latter-day Saint we are allowed to hold church but only for foreign passport holders. Local Chinese are not able to attend our services and we are not allowed to proselyte or encourage discussion with them about our beliefs. However, I feel fortunate that the Chinese Government allows us to meet and partake of the sacrament. I also feel proud that our church leaders have held an upstanding association with the officials and that we are honoring their wishes. Anyways, back to Christmas... 

We braved Christmas in Shanghai this year due to Peyton's work schedule and the fact that we are MONTHS away from moving back to the U.S. The countdown begins! Working on our paper chain as we speak. 

I was a bit sad because I love spending time with family during the holidays. And, lets be honest, celebrating Christmas in a land of no Jesus doesn't sound that spiritual. But, we made it work. 

And one by one we said goodbye to our friends who would go back to the States for Christmas break.  We even had Shutterfly address and send out our christmas cards. (Did you know that was possible? My very own assistant!) We missed home for the holidays so much that we decided to enjoy our Christmas decorations for 2 months instead of one! 

Our friends told us one of their Christmas traditions was sleeping under their tree the first night it was put up. We loved that idea and decided to adopt it immediately. 

We tried to visit all of the typical Christmas markets with friends to get into the spirit and even enjoyed some hot chocolate that was surprisingly perfect. (China never does chocolate perfectly.)

We had Family Home Evening with some of our friends one night and got to decorate Gingerbread houses and sing Christmas hymns. This is one of their holiday traditions and the kids were done after about 10 minutes but the adults stayed up late playing architect with candy canes well after bedtime. 

The highlight of our Christmas definitely had to be our Ugly Sweater Christmas party. We decided to surprise our guests with a caroling activity that required the subway! We thought it would be fun to spread christmas cheer while frolicking through the train. We then ended up at the busiest Metro station in Shanghai and decided to get out and sing there. We drew quite the crowd. Everyone loved us, until the subway security shut us DOWN. They probably thought we were straight up drunk on eggnog. "Those crazy Americans again..." The party was complete with a white elephant gift exchange and a few games and prizes. I don't wan't to brag or anything. But, I won the Peoples Choice Ugliest Christmas Sweater award. I wear that title with pride. 

We have some pretty amazing friends who I am glad were up for the challenge complete with smiling faces and solos. Its weird how you don't get that embarrassed with doing silly things here in public. I find myself doing stupid things because, hey, no one can understand me and they stare at me regardless! Cheers, China! 

 Christmas Eve we celebrated with friends and we read the nativity while Netflix showed a roaring fire on our TV. (Seriously, It's a real thing.) We also sang christmas hymns while we lit this German Nativity Candle set. If it sounds magical, that's because it was. 

Christmas Day Samantha woke up to her Santa loot and played with her new toys for a solid 5 minutes. She enjoyed unwrapping her presents and thoroughly enjoyed helping Mom and Dad with theirs, as well. 

Christmas Day evening we decided to go all out and head to the Grand Hyatt for a Christmas buffet. It was complete with a sushi chef, seafood bar, chocolate fondue, and gourmet Chinese food. (AND western favorites). The best part was I didn't have to do the dishes or slave away all day in the kitchen. It was pretty much our best idea of the year. 

We sure missed seeing all our family and friends in the states during the holidays, but we will get to celebrate there next year and thats something to get excited about. This time of the year is always special as we get to reflect on the birth of our Savior. We enjoyed teaching Samantha about Jesus and the real reason behind Christmas. It doesn't really matter where you celebrate, as long as your family is with you!