The Christmas season is upon us! I taught my last class of the week on Friday, and whilst it didn’t have a Christmas theme per se, we did do a couple of Christmas-related activities (including two Santa drawings I did in class – see below). Students also wished me a Merry Christmas. The lesson was about shopping and money. One activity involved me (hypothetically) giving students 2000 yuan to spend buying ten items for a class Christmas party, but only items they could carry (so, no online shopping or deliveries allowed).
All the groups in my class on Tuesdays included apples on their lists. I was a little confused and unfamiliar with this. Why apples (as opposed to, say, oranges)? On Friday afternoon, the class explained that in China on Christmas Eve, they often eat apples. It also has something to do with the Chinese word for apples – 苹果 (píngguǒ) – and the word for Christmas Eve – 平安夜 (píng’ān yè) – translated as peaceful or quiet evening (from the carol ‘Silent Night’). Although different Chinese characters, the phonetic pronunciation of ping (in apple) and ping (in Christmas Eve) sound the same. Therefore, Chinese people give apples on this day (or, at least, that’s how I understood their explanation). Santa Claus is 圣诞老人 (shèngdàn lǎorén, lit. Christmas old man). They also told me at the party they wanted Santa trees (meaning Christmas trees), but they did pretty well in the activity, considering they don’t celebrate it.
The air has been good recently. There has been a conscious shift towards cleaner air and with the closing of the last coal-fired power station, as well as communities surrounding Beijing switching their heating to gas, it has helped keep the air (relatively) clean. Certainly not on the levels that we had last Christmas (so far).
On Wednesday, I returned to my room after Chinese class, and one of the cleaners called to me, and gave me a Christmas tree. It is small, and perhaps not the best quality, but it was a lovely gesture, and the first time in China I’ve had an actual Christmas tree. It also rotates and is a fibre-optic tree, with some of the leaves changing colour. I moved some furniture around to put the tree in a good position. I gave the cleaners, and my Chinese teachers, some gifts too, as a thank you. Nothing particularly exciting (mostly chocolate), but I wanted to say thank you to them for their work this semester.
For Christmas Day, I am going to the Hilton hotel (where we went last year), with two former colleagues and their friends. That should be interesting, and it will be nice to spend the day doing something Christmassy!
As we move towards the end of the year, people tend to be reflective about the year – the good, the bad (and also perhaps the ugly); situations which worked and ones which did not; the positives and negatives, and so on. I will, no doubt, also be in a reflective mood, but I was reminded recently of a quote from season two of the US television series Community, in their Christmas episode. Christmas is the crazy idea that ‘the longest, coldest, darkest nights are also the warmest and brightest’. So, on that score, all that is left for me to say, is Merry Christmas! 🎅🎄