On Having the Christmas Blues in China

Christmas in China might sound cool and exciting -- but sometimes it's not as fun as it seems
Christmas in China might sound cool and exciting — but sometimes it’s not as fun as it seems

This year marks my third consecutive Christmas I will have spent in China since moving back here in November of 2013. I’d love to say it’s all tinsel, glitter and joy — but as I’ve learned over the years, it’s not always easy to spend the holidays in a country that doesn’t celebrate them.

Add to that the fact that I’ve come down with the flu twice this month (maybe three times — my throat is feeling scratchy as a I write this) and you’ve got a holiday season that really doesn’t have much of a holiday feel to me. Sigh.

That said, I know I’m not alone in this feeling.

Last year when I wrote about The Ups and Downs of Spending Christmas Abroad (in a Country That Doesn’t Celebrate It), lots of you wrote in to say how much that post touched you. (And I was touched to see my words resonate with so many others.)

So this year, I’m once again sending you on to The Ups and Downs of Spending Christmas Abroad (in a Country That Doesn’t Celebrate It):

Initially, I had this perfect little holiday-themed post all sketched out to run today. It would snappy, upbeat and fun. Everything Christmas should be, right?

But after I let it sit for a day and revisited it, I realized it didn’t hit the right note with me. The thing is, I wasn’t feeling snappy, upbeat or fun.

I didn’t like the idea of having to force a happy face out there when it wasn’t the truth. The heaviness in my heart that weighed upon me as I stared at the computer screen told me I just couldn’t run that post in good conscience – not when I’m still facing my own share of ups and downs over spending Christmas in China, a country that doesn’t officially celebrate it.

You can read the full post here.

Have yourselves a Merry little Christmas wherever you are in the world — and sending you hugs and understanding from China.

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10 Replies to “On Having the Christmas Blues in China”

  1. Wow, can’t believe I never commented on the post from last year. All I can say from reading it, is that this is what its like for me in America, a country that celebrates holidays I don’t care about and never cares or acknowleges holidays I celebrate. (Seriously, imagine being Jewish and being constantly confronted with Christmas carols no matter where you go.) I suppose that I’ve lived so long somewhere that in all honesty, I really don’t care about holidays at all. I don’t care if they are coming, I don’t care if they get here, or if they leave. I don’t look forward to them, nor do I dread them. They are just like any other day in other words.

    At this point I’m wondering what will I do when my baby will be born. I always wanted to try to celebrate Asian (in this case Chinese) holidays, but the baby’s father says its impossible because no China town community in Dallas Texas. Wow, now I’m beginning to feel down…

  2. Funny, that is exactly what I miss about China. Here in the States during the Holidays is painful. I’m having a hard time here.

  3. My husband is going through it from the other direction. He has never celebrated Christmas and is overwhelmed it with my two kids. The other day he asked if we could go to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner instead of having turkey. So we are now eating LUNCH at the restaurant and the tradition dinner at home to keep everyone happy. 🙂

  4. @Sveta

    When you are an “outsider” and live in countries that have their own traditions/customs/holidays you may feel alienated, but in time some or more so the citizens of these countries can and do embrace customs and cultures of others .

    My family is Orthodox and yes it was tough as children trying to explain to others why we don’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th or why we didn’t get any presents But as we got older the community and friends learnt, understood and embraced the differences .We’d celebrate Christmas on the 25th with friends and those same friends would come and celebrate Christmas with us on the 7th of January.

    Also here in Shanghai they can truly decorate the city beautifully in Christmas decoration than in my home town, maybe I am wrong but I don’t think overall that it’s the place that makes the occasion special whether it be Christmas, Chinese New Year etc, but the people around you or who are not around you that makes the occasion special and heartfelt.

    Wishing Jocelyn, John and all readers a very happy and safe Christmas.

  5. Thanks for reposting this, last year we spent Christmas in China, without internet (my husband’s family is rural as well) so I missed your post among many other things.
    You put the Christmas experience in China well, a lot of what you said resonated with me. My Christmas memory was waking up with unspoken expectations and hopes already fading, it was hard to have the Christmas spirit or even the real meaning of Christmas in my heart amongst so many who didn’t celebrate except with “sales” and blaring music from stores. I ended up crying outside of a bank on a crowded street, it’s still hurts a lot now. But the good in the day was my mother in law’s deep concern for my sadness, someone who hardly knows me but cares so much about me,
    Thanks for helping me remember the experience and day and process it more positively this year.

  6. The thing I dislike most about Christmas in China is the way local friends and acquaintances expect me to happy and upbeat, and give them gifts. Whereas I traditionally prefer a quiet day with friends. I was told I was very mean, and for my second year in China I think turned my phone off once my friends had gathered for a relaxed day.

    Many of my local friends found it difficult to accept that I don’t celebrate Christmas like in an American movie and got very offended when I didn’t invite them, or even give them apples.

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