How do you celebrate?

Maria Niechwiadowicz



Merry Christmas! I hope this post finds you surrounded by the love of family both near and far! As I have spent Christmas Day in Guyuan, I had much time to reflect on Christmas traditions over the years. Upholding tradition has always been very important me but something that, obviously, changes over the years. When I was younger it used to annoy me when we didn’t do something “according to tradition” but something I realized I had to get over if I didn’t want to be disappointed year after year as I got older.

Last year for Christmas, my godmother gifted me a “Christmas Memories Book,” recognizing that I have been shaped by family traditions and now am ready to begin my own. As I have sat here with my book today, putting ink to its fresh pages, I have been in awe of how much tradition I have retained despite being in such an utterly different place…

There was no Christmas eve service to attend, no seafood stew to eat with flatbread and lefse. There was no snow to wake up to on Christmas morning or the smell of evergreen in the air. But my advent candles were lit, I couldn’t help but dance to O Holy Night in my living room, traditional Sticky Figgy Pudding baked in my oven and filled my belly, and my brothers and I still managed to sit around the Christmas tree chatting for hours (over FaceTime of course). My moments have been filled with joy in celebrating with those here and those back at home.

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Family Skype session!


Student Christmas Party!


As I have celebrated in this new context, I wonder, are there aspects that will stick for years to come? Is there something about being in China that I will want to remember for next year and beyond? Only time will tell. Time does have a funny way of creating traditions without even realizing!

In preparation for my Christmas lessons last week, I once again asked the students to do their own research on Western Christmas traditions. Here are some of the things they came up with that I got a good laugh out of:

“The most important thing is the christmas hat. In the Christmas evening, sleeping with the hat you can feel warm and steady.”

“An ice skating rink offers a more northerly christmas interlude.”

“They all wear a red hat.”

“After eating, families will do some light sporting events such as a country walk.”

“They will sing songs about Jesus then drink merrily.”

“People will dress up their house with Christmas trees, christmas mascot, and christmas lamp.”

“They will go to church and recite poems.”

So, how are you celebrating Christmas?


Baozi for lunch after delivering cookies to our favorite locals!

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And a spontaneous baozi run for dinner…yes we literally ran there to catch them before closing!