Maria Holland

As Lately We Watched

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2009 at 2:52 am

Merry Christmas!  I hope your day started off better than mine, with 10 a.m. Listening Class.  I actually wasn’t sure which was more sad – the fact that I had class on Christmas morning, or the fact that I had nothing better to do than go to class on Christmas morning.  All the other students were whiny about being there, so it was even less enjoyable than it theoretically could have been.

Afterwards Aleid, Jimmy, and I enjoyed a traditional Christmas feast of fried 饺子 (dumplings).  The place is under new [incompetent] management but we still love it.  It’s on the perfect street and since all the seats are outside you have no choice but to enjoy the view.  It’s close enough to campus that you see people you know (today, a dancing friend and former classmate) but far enough that there’s always something to surprise you.  Today, the surprise was the two men riding by with enormous cakes on their bikes (sorry, no picture).  We followed them after lunch to buy the Chinese version of fruitcake – dense, chewy, peanut-y and fruity something. 

My afternoon was consumed by cleaning up my room, devastated by the aftermath of baking 300 cookies.  I had turned my entire room into a kitchen, which had left me with flour all over my bed, chocolate smeared all over the floor, and dirty dishes in the bathroom.  Ugh . . .

I took a break in the middle of this to go see my friend Carlos, who was being paid to be Santa Claus on ZhongShan Lu.  It was a pretty funny sight – Carlos in this huge Santa Suit; white beard hanging low enough to show his dark Spanish facial hair; and on his feet, the same blue shoes that he wears every single day.

After finishing up my chores, I went out for a nice Christmas Dinner. 


The International Friend Association had a big party at a new Italian restaurant nearby – 45 kuai for an all-you-can-eat buffet.  The food was not bad (although after four months my standards for Italian food have dropped, probably to dangerous levels), but I purposefully left as karaoke was getting started. 

Christmas day actually ended on a high note, as Carlos came up to have some more cookies.  We just sat and talked for about an hour, and it was good to catch up.  It feels like I’ve just been baking these past few days, but that brought about a lot of opportunities to connect with friends so it was certainly not wasted time. 

So now, with Christmas behind me (well, to my west at least), I want to reflect on my first celebration of the holiday in China.  I guess I thought it might be easier to remember the “true meaning of Christmas” in China where none of the “other stuff” would serve as distractions.  But I ended up realizing that a lot of the other stuff is important to me, too, and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to recreate that.  It was things that, in America, take place without any special effort on my part – listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, eating fancy meals and fresh baked goods, sending Christmas greetings.  It ended up being even more distracting than usual from my attempts to observe the season of Advent, preparing for the birth of Christ.  Going to Mass here is kind of an ordeal (for lack of a better word) on any given Sunday, and Christmas was just more so.  When I spend so much of my effort just trying to figure out which Bible story to match up with the readings, there’s not a whole lot of time left over for spiritual preparation.  (This is why I chose the song “As Lately We Watched” for today’s title: I feel like I’ve been watching my sheep [or cookies] while Jesus was born . . . but if the shepherds didn’t catch on until afterwards I can only hope there’s still time for me.)

And with that, I wish you all a very blessed Christmas, filled with the presence of friends and family near and the love of friends and family far. 

  1. Very nicely put Maria!!!
    I’m very impressed, too, by your cookie baking!
    ………and I thought it was hard in my tiny kitchen!
    Love you lots, Aunt Mary

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