My second Christmas away from home. Home and family which is kinda, in my opinion, what Christmas spirit is all about. One of my favourite Christmas quotes:
"It came without presents! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!" He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more."
It's so interesting being a teacher in another country teaching students who have never really experienced Christmas, Christmas spirit, and the gift of giving. When trying to teach these students about what Christmas is and why it's so important to their Canadian teachers, it's hard not to emphasize the packages, boxes, and bags. I love telling them about the beautiful decorations, the lights and colours, and the atmosphere of people bustling about buying presents, seeing family and friends, and having Christmas parties.
I think it's important to tell them about those things, because they are a part of Christmas. But it's not what Christmas is ALL about...
For me, and what is most difficult about being away from home during the holiday season, is missing out on the family time and the warm feeling of being surrounded by the people who love you unconditionally. I don't feel homesick on a regular day, but this week there is a homesickness shadowing over me.
A few weeks ago, my students did an interview project with my cousin Rebecca back home in New Brunswick. Their task was to find out how life for Chinese students is the same and different from that of Canadian students. During the interview, the students had a period of time to ask Rebecca questions that weren't related to the topic. Students were very curious to learn about what Rebecca had for traditions during Christmas. As she answered the questions, describing the events that take place in her household on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I sighed, pretended to cry (putting on a show for the kids), but in actuality, I teared up and had to hide it from the kids. Rebecca was quick to apologize, but I assured her I was fine. But my heart hurt a little bit. Because all of those traditions, events, and moments she spoke about - from eating cannelloni's on Christmas Eve at her house, to opening the box of gifts from Uncle David labeled with their jokes and one-liners, and playing Taboo after dinner - are things my family is involved in, and things I'm missing out on when I am here. They are the things, that when Christmas is approaching, I remember and cherish the most, and make me feel warmest. Because they are embodied in the Christmas spirit. It's what Christmas means to me - being with family.
These are the things I try to teach my students about during the Christmas season. That Christmas is much more than presents and the amount of money you spend. It's about giving and being with the ones you love the most. About being thankful for the things we have in life and the things that can't be wrapped in beautiful, shiny paper and bows.
The thing I've been finding myself saying the most this December: I can't WAIT for my first Christmas back home!