Christmas 2007 has come and gone; it was a good one as they go. Our holiday season started in China, where we were able to see how the Chinese creatively decorate for the holidays. They decorate all kinds of things - shopping malls, fences, the lobby of our apartment building, and anything else they can stick lights, tinsel, strangely festive animals, or "Happy Christmas" signs on. My office had a huge plastic tree in the lobby and two month's worth of Christmas music in the elevators (complete with some holiday rap and even Madonna's Santa Baby).
Karen insisted we get a tree, I said no way since we were going home for Christmas and real trees are expensive here. However, during Justine's visit on her final tour through our local fakes market, we had a chance to pick out our tree. It was a holiday decoration that the shopkeeper had put up in a little snack shop called Delicake. After some fierce negotiations, them calling the boss to confirm the final deal terms, and attracting the attention of every shopkeeper within 50' (the Chinese love to make a deal), we walked away $13 poorer, but with a small, pre-decorated, pre-lighted fake tree in hand. The people we passed were quite interested, and repeatedly told me we got a good deal. We then went ahead and finished our day with the tree, taking it through the market, in a taxi, and to lunch - spreading the Christmas cheer. Once we got it home, Karen got our box of Christmas decorations out and re-vamped the tree to our tastes.
Chinese people don't really celebrate Christmas. They know it is a Western holiday and know most of the typical symbols of the holiday season. My company, having almost all Chinese staff here, did not give us any time off for Christmas. Karen's school, on the other hand, gave her two weeks off. Before her break started, Yew Chung's Year 1, Section D (a few kiddies at right)had a chance to make ornaments with their beloved teacher, Mrs. Karen.
US Christmas - Phase 1 (IL)
Our Christmas plans this year took us from Shanghai to Chicago (Peotone), IL, and onto Spokane, WA. We split the time between the Wojcik and Singleton sides of our family. It was nice to get back (our first trip home since we left in June). Of course, food was abundant, unhealthy, and appealing. We could have salads, meats, cookies, cakes, pies, sandwiches, and whatever else we wanted.
Suki was happy to see her deserting ex-parents, and John and Nancy had a big (17 of us!) Christmas Eve celebration at their house. We gained weight, walked the dog, shivered when outside, watched movies and played games, and just generally caught up with everyone. It was great to see people, eat 'normal' food, and get out of the chaos of China for a bit. After four or five days, we flew off to Spokane for the next stage.
US Christmas - Phase 2 (WA)
We landed in Spokane on a few inches of fresh snow - a (late) white Christmas. We stayed with Grandma and Grandpa at their house. Various members of the Thompson clan popped in for visits, Mom and Dad flew in, and Justin, Kristi, and Grandma May made it over. Again, we had lots of 'normal' food. This time, there was the ever welcome seafood feast, and of course more unhealthy snacks and treats.
We weren't so organized to have a big family photo, but here are a few shots from our visit, including a few featuring the slightly round Missy - Grandma and Grandpa's Pomeranian. Its strange how Justin and a chubby little dog can somehow make such similar faces.
After Spokane, I headed back to Shanghai to go back to work, while Karen flew back to Chicago for a few more days with her family. It was great to spend some time in the States and visit with everyone. Thanks to all who picked us up, coordinated visits, flew/drove to the gatherings, put us up, and fed us. We wish everyone the best in the New Year, and look forward to another good year for all.
I leave you with a picture of Missy's cute face, and, in line with Chinese traditions, the following sayings:
新年快乐 [xin nian kuai le] (prounouced: sheen-nee-ahn-kwai-luh) - Happy New Year
恭喜发财 [gong xi fa cai] (pronounced: gung-shee-fah-tsai) - Congratulations and Be Prosperous