From Chinese New Year To Christmas in July?

A Chinese style Christmas stockingJohn never looked more upset the moment I lifted our artificial Christmas tree — up and out of the living room.

“What are you doing? Don’t move that,” he said.

“But it’s embarrassing,” I said, not glancing back at him as I carried it into our bedroom. “Just think if our guest saw it.”

“Nobody cares, just leave it out.”

“Look, this isn’t just another Chinese New Year decoration you just hang up all year long.” I glared at him as I said it, the kind of glare that says, “Don’t even try winning this argument.”

Outside, the sun’s rays turned the field across from our place into a shimmering green, where the crack of baseball bats and the barking of dogs trailed by owners in shorts and T-shirts reminded me the holidays had long gone. But you wouldn’t know it by the Christmas tree, stockings and string of holiday lights in our home — decorations that, to my Chinese husband, deserved a place in our home the entire year, just like the red couplets or “Good Fortune” characters decorating the homes of most Chinese. Continue reading “From Chinese New Year To Christmas in July?”

The Friday Valentine’s Day Roundup

A heart-shaped box filled with chocolate-shaped hearts
(photo by Tijs Gerritsen)

Valentine’s Day arrives this Tuesday, February 14. In honor of the day To give this deadline-weary writer a break from a long week, I’m pulling out some of my favorite Valentine-related content from the archives.

Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Husband Forgot Valentine’s Day. “Basically, as Valentine’s Day passed without a hint of romance…I’ve been pouring over whether or not my western conditioning has been detrimental to my marriage.”

Mandarin Love: Chinese Phrases on Love and Destiny. I share some of my favorite Chinese idioms that invoke love and destiny. Might just come in handy on Tuesday. 😉

Ask the Yangxifu: Gifts for Chinese Valentine’s Day. For those of you who don’t know, China also has its own Valentine’s Day called Qixi, which lands on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar year. I discuss the holiday and possible gift ideas for your boyfriend or husband.

China and Its Oh So Romantic Christmas. Okay, you’re probably thinking, Jocelyn has really lost it because she’s pulling out a Christmas entry in the middle of February. But, Christmas in China feels a lot like Valentine’s Day — read for yourself and decide.

The Double Happiness Archives. Enjoy one of the real-life stories of Western women and Chinese men in love from the archives. (And for more stories, also see my lists of books and movies that feature couples of Chinese men and Western women.)

Happy Valentine’s Day — or as they say in China, qíngrénjié kuàilè (情人节快乐)!

China and Its Oh So Romantic Christmas

A Chinese couple poses before a Christmas tree
Christmas is oh so romantic. At least, that’s what my Chinese husband thinks of the holiday -- and I know he’s not alone. (image from

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.

It’s not as if Christmas isn’t romantic in the US, where I grew up. After all, Christmas remains the most popular time for wedding proposals, and often a season when many will surprise their loved ones with “a little sparkle” of jewelry under the tree. Plus, there’s at least one romantic holiday movie every year that squeezes in among all of the Santa Claus and elves at the movies (and often far more made-for-TV romantic movies — yes, Lifetime, I’m thinking of you).

But perhaps all that Christmas romance gets lost behind the Santa Claus and the Christmas story and Christmas Eve at your grandma’s and all of your other holiday and family traditions. I don’t know about you, but in my mind, I still think of family when I think of Christmas, and no amount of romantic movies and “buy your engagement ring” commercials could ever change that.

In China, the story changes. Continue reading “China and Its Oh So Romantic Christmas”

My Holidays Start With Five-Spice Turkey and Chinese Dumplings

When you build a life with someone from another culture, sometimes you just learn how to transcend your past and create a new future, something that feels as tangible as the traditions you once knew (or never knew).

In my home, I know it’s the holidays when cranberry sauce, hand-rolled Chinese dumplings and five-spice turkey hit the table.

That’s what we had on ours last week, when John and I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in our home. He and I like to joke that it’s a tradition now, that the season just wouldn’t be right without it, even though it’s only our second year of hosting people for the holiday.

In fact, this so-called tradition happened by accident. Last year, the friend I hoped to spend the holiday made her plans without us, and we weren’t invited. Damn. Just as I started imagining a Thanksgiving without the dinner, my husband said, “why don’t we make it ourselves?” Continue reading “My Holidays Start With Five-Spice Turkey and Chinese Dumplings”

January in China: The Holidays aren’t over yet

I wrote this piece five years ago, but it still rings true. If you miss the holiday atmosphere in January, after Christmas and New Year’s Eve, then you should be in China.


It was early afternoon, and the little Luwan Food Store in Shanghai was belching out patrons left and right. We felt the squeeze as we waited in line for the sesame seed/walnut powder. I was taken by one man who bought two large containers, and slipped them into a black valise that seemed more fitting for someone in the secret service. The people behind John and I impatiently nudged us forward.

The ladies behind the counter just beyond that — the one for Chinese tonics and herbs, everything from ginseng to swallow saliva — bustled back and forth, handing the remedies over to customers in the smart, glossy red packages. Even the tea department brewed with energy. Several men hunched over a counter displaying an assortment of dried and cured leaves in a spectrum of greens, browns and black.

When John and I returned to Huaihai Road — the “Fifth Avenue” of Shanghai — we plunged into a odd gallery of late-season holiday decorations in the store windows. Tinsel, Christmas trees and images of Santa Claus all contradicted the reality that Christmas was already over. Even department stores broadcasted Christmas carols in the background.

This is January in China’s big cities: still frosted with holiday flavor, and still a consumer frenzy that would rival the Christmas shopping season. Continue reading “January in China: The Holidays aren’t over yet”