The Old Must Go for the New to Come

In January 2010, I crammed 25 years of my life into two little 50 lbs bags and headed out on a China-bound plane to educate the young and inquisitive minds of Dalian on all things American. But why? Why leave a coveted associate producer position at CBS (and six years of journalism training to boot) and head off to a lowly English teaching position in China? Why? Because, frankly, I've learned getting what you think you want out of life isn't always what it's cracked up to be. What follows are the tales of my trials and triumphs (like overcoming my fear of the dreaded squatty potty) and the lessons I've learned along the way...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Holiday Season and The C-Word

Slowly but surely signs of Christmas are emerging from the storefronts and shopping centers of Dalian…and I suppose, the rest of Westernized China. However, Christmastime here lacks the in-your-face excess of a good ole-fashioned commercialized Christmas from back in the states. Sure there are some gaudy Christmas trees with blinking lights, tacky pictures of smiling Santas and medleys of lackluster carols playing in the background. But there are no lights strewn along city streets and no garland hanging from lampposts. Christmas songs and ads don’t flood the airwaves the day after Thanksgiving (but then, again there is no Thanksgiving in China.) There is no steady jingle of Salvation Army bells outside every building. Every store doesn’t have pictures of happy people holding gifts of red, white and green. No seat for Santa Clause in the middle of any given shopping mall. And most coffee shops here don’t offer any special holiday-themed drinks (except Starbucks, but sadly, even they don’t serve Gingerbread Lattes on this side of the Pacific. Sigh.)

It seems that in China, Christmas is simply given a passing nod rather than months of preparation, weeks of television specials and thousands—or collectively billions—of dollars in spending. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing…except that now I find myself desperately straining to find those pieces of Christmas that I left back home. And I suppose having spent my past three Decembers in New York City, the Christmas capital of the World, my standards might be a little too high at this point. But beyond the superficial spectacle of giant Christmas trees, wonderland storefronts, and larger-than-life holiday productions…what I find myself longing for most from home is the very focal point of this whole holiday—Christ.

Yes, as I said before, there are decorations and music. You can find jingle bells and Christmas trees and tinsel and Santa hats and pictures of reindeers…but what you can’t find is a single Nativity scene. I’ve found bells and bows to top my tree, but I’ve yet to find an angel or a star from the East (but I guess if I did find a star, it would quite literally be from the East—ba-da-ching.) There are plenty of pictures of Old Saint Nick, but not one of a babe in a manger…Cards and signs that say “Merry Christmas,” but no acknowledgement of its context within Christ.

Say what you will about Christmas deriving from some Roman pagan holiday. I won’t deny that just like most Western holidays, ancient paganism has had some influence on when and how we celebrate it. But that pales in comparison to the influence that the birth God's one and only Son has had on this entire Earth. And it is the commemoration of that holy birth—not Winter Solstice, Yule, or Sol Invictus—that has generated the observance of billions across the globe and essentially the entire holiday season. More importantly, it is the acknowledgment of that birth and God’s unconditional love for mankind that gives the holiday season any semblence of meaning for me. I’ve heard people often say they’re not into the whole religious aspect of Christmas, but at the risk of sounding narrow-minded and politically incorrect, I honestly can’t quite wrap my mind around that concept. The pure semantics of the word indicates that it is a celebration of Christ—a mass of Christ

Beyond the lights and the cantatas and the food and even the family, it really does come back down to Jesus for me…which is why I guess, right now, I’m at a loss for holiday spirit even amidst the trees and wreaths. But then again—at the risk of sounding corny—maybe this year, my focus needs to be less on Jesus’ place in ceramic Nativity scenes and more on His place in my own heart…Well, it’s only the beginning of December. There’s still time to get into the Spirit :o)


  1. "say what you want about Christmas derving frm some pagan holiday"..people need to check their history. Some facts for them:

    Did you know candy canes were created in the late 1600 by a Christian Man to represent the Shepherd’s Hook of Jesus as the God Shepherd? And the White and Red stripes were later added to represent the blood of Jesus which represents his sacrifice for our sins! Praise Yahweh for the Son of Man this Christmas folks!

  2. .... meanwhile, back on the homefront, we sure do miss the "rhema joy" of our family's tradition!. Missing you... missing those who are no longer with us, certainly does place our focus more firmly planted on JESUS-- the True Reason for the season.


Popular Posts