Ask my husband John about Christmas and he lights up with wonder in his eyes. You’d think he spent his entire life anticipating that one magical day of the year, when everything seems possible.
But in fact, Christmas wasn’t even a part of his life until the two of us started dating years ago. People in China don’t traditionally observe the holiday.
Since then, we’ve enjoyed 12 Christmases together. And I have to say, there’s something joyful about celebrating it with a total newcomer to the holiday – a person who brings a fresh perspective on that silent night.
Here are three things I love about spending Christmas with someone who didn’t grow up with Christmas:
1. Playing Santa Claus all over again
When I was a kid, Santa Claus was the real deal. We used to sit on his lap in “Santaland” at the local mall and tell him what we wanted, write him letters asking how the reindeer were able to land on our roof, and leave out milk and cookies. It brought a sense of anticipation and magic to the holiday season – one that can easily slip away from you as you grow up into the “there’s no such thing as Santa Claus” reality of adulthood.
Or does it have to slip away? Not if you’re married to someone who loves the idea of Santa Claus – enough to will him into existence into your life all over again. As I’ve written before in my post titled My Husband and His Childlike Christmas Cheer:
The other day, I caught John pouring over his inflatable globe — and couldn’t help but remind him of its origins.
“Remember when ‘Santa Claus’ gave that to you last year?” I said with a wink.
He giggled in response. “‘Santa Claus’ really knows what I like.”
It’s the sort of thing you’d hear a parent ask their child — instead of a wife asking her husband. Yet, even though we both know who “Santa Claus” really is, any talk of the jolly old man never fails to bring a smile to his face.
I have to admit, it makes me smile to see John loving the idea of Santa Claus. He reminds me that you’re never too old to appreciate Santa.
2. Creating new and unique Christmas traditions together
In my Midwestern Catholic family back in America, it’s not traditional to have a Christmas stocking with Chinese characters on it. Or hang one of the mascots from the Beijing Olympics on your tree. Or even worship your ancestors on the holiday.
But since marrying my husband John, Christmas has taken on some decidedly Chinese characteristics – all because he never grew up with the typical traditions I did. (See my post titled How To Make It A Very Chinese Christmas.)
Sometimes, it’s just fun to be able to ignore the usual “Christmas rulebook” and create your own new and unique traditions for the holidays as a couple.
3. Discovering that Christmas doesn’t mean the same thing around the world
Is this Christmas or Valentine’s Day? That’s something I’ve wondered after celebrating a few Christmases here in China with my husband. As I wrote before in my post China and Its Oh So Romantic Christmas:
Christmas is oh so romantic. At least, that’s what my Chinese husband thinks of the holiday — and I know he’s not alone.
I’ll never forget one Christmas Eve when I stepped out onto Huaihai Road, Shanghai’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue, and right into a sea of twentysomething and thirtysomething couples, strolling hand-in-hand under strings of soft white led Christmas lights up and down the street. There were so many young people in love all around me, I almost felt like I walked onto a set-in-China romantic holiday movie.
My husband gets all starry-eyed when I ask about what we’re going to do on Christmas. To him, the entire holiday is candy-coated with lots of love and romance, thanks to all of the romantic Hollywood and TV movies about Christmas that have come over to China.
Granted, the Christmas I grew up with was more about family than falling in love (or falling in love all over again). But on the other hand, there’s something lovely about having a husband who gets all excited about all the romantic things we might do together this year on Christmas – like sharing coffee and Christmas cookies for two at Starbucks, or holding hands as we stroll around the West Lake all bundled up in our winter best.
Have you celebrated Christmas with someone who didn’t grow up with Christmas? What joys have you experienced, thanks to their unique perspective on the holiday?