Merry Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas. Seasons Greetings. Happy Holidays. Shèng Dàn Kuài Lè.
No matter how many ways you say it, no matter how many times, it feels a little less so this year. I don't want to make this post sappy and depressing, because I don't feel that way ALL of the time lately. Just when I'm alone and able to reflect on my own thoughts - isn't that always the way.
I went back and read some of my old Christmas posts from the last two years of blogging. This time last year I was back home for the holidays from Calgary. I was writing a post from the airport crossing my fingers my flights wouldn't be cancelled because of the snow. A year before that I was finishing up my first internship and heading to Saint John to celebrate Christmas. This year though will be very different. This year I'll be spending my first Christmas away from home. Away from my family. I wrote a post two years ago about traditions and how important they are to the meaning of Christmas to me. Many of those traditions are dependent mainly on family. And this Christmas my family is all the way on the other side of the world. Back home. In Canada.
I have one day off for Christmas on Christmas Day. Which happens to be in the middle of the week. I guess a blessing in disguise is that I'm surrounded by fellow Canadians who are also away from their families this Christmas. Together, we will create new traditions, do things that will make the day feel as much like Christmas as possible, and I'm sure we will share stories of Christmas' past and reminisce on what we would be doing if we were home. I'm sure there will be tears and heartache, but then I have to remind myself how blessed I am to be on this adventure. To be seeing and doing these things that I have only imagined and dreamed of up until this point. That in itself is a gift in so many ways. The cultures I get to experience, the growing up I get to do, the amazing people I get to meet, the inspiring students I get to teach, and the finding of myself that occurs. These are things some people never get the chance to do, and I'm doing it all before I turn 25...just barely :)
There is so much more I want to say, and so much more I want to reflect on, but I don't know how to start and I don't know how to convey how I am truly feeling. I think my friend Erin said it best this evening in that she just feels "numb." I have really loved teaching my students about how important Christmas is to me and the rest of the Canadians. In fact, yesterday one of my students out of no where wished me a Merry Christmas. I almost leaped out of my chair and gave him the biggest hug (I chose not to in fear that I would startle him too much. He's the jumpy kind). However, I think the smile on my face and my genuine thank you did the trick. That moment of kindness and warmth made all of my homesickness go away. For just a little while.
Being an ESL teacher in China has actually put a wonderful new spin and touch on the Christmas spirit this year. Teaching these students about Christmas, the symbols and traditions surrounding it, the history, and what Christmas spirit is all about has been the starting of a new tradition I'm really looking forward to in the coming years. A highlight was when I delivered Christmas cards and candy canes to each of my students yesterday. They cheered and said thank you and Merry Christmas again and again. As I sat down and looked at them in their holiday excitement, I remembered how much I love this season of giving. I love that I got to share with these amazing students the wonderment that is Christmas. I don't know if it impacted them the same way that it impacted me, but it is a memory I will always cherish.
So, looking ahead: Christmas away from home is difficult. It can be lonely at times. And the homesickness is always within reach. But thanks to my students, my friends, the internet, and Skype, I'm making this first Christmas a special one. One to always remember.
Another China frist.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Love you, always and forever.