China does Christmas, but it doesn’t grasp the more religious and traditional aspects of it, they are all over the commercialism. As I wrapped up my time in Suining, some new stalls popped up around the high school, most of them offering up small gift boxes. Inside these boxes are oranges, and more often, apples. It turns apple – 苹果 píngguǒ is very similar to the Chinese word for peace – 平安 píng’ān. By giving someone an apple at Christmas it means the giver wishes their friend a peaceful new year. I received two apples from my cool class, plus two oranges, a pair of skeleton socks and a model flint-lock gun that turned out be a lighter! A much better haul than I expected being out in Northwestern Jiangsu province.
Contact with home and I asked if they wanted Internet bought gifts to arrive before Christmas day or some more distinctly Chinese gifts that would arrive at a later date. My mother and both sisters-in-law opted for the Chinese-bought, late arrivals. This makes sense because there is so MUCH on the day that one more box will join the pile of presents, shredded wrapping paper and empty boxes. A belated gift in late-January or mid-February extends the season and becomes an unexpected delight. Pretty much everyone enjoys getting something other than bills in the mail. This means I have to go and find the local goods for shipping home, one day I’ll write a full blog about how good I am at giving gifts, and I can type up what I ended up getting the 11 people back in Canada because on Christmas Day I skyped with seven of them. As I hunted the streets of Suining for suitable gifts the children proved easier to buy for than the adults. In the end I went for a head themed gifting, as I purchased 9 types of headwear (one toque, eight hats), five tins of candy for the kids (more of the tins than the candy) and five sets of mittens, a pair of Chinese family unity knots (which I received as gifts for entertaining at a children’s Christmas party and the piece de resistance, an authentic Adidos jacket (that typo is on the jacket, which is why I bought it.)
On Christmas Day I had to work, which didn’t bother me, I didn’t have much planned despite my contract mandating I be given the day off. For working Dec. 25, 2013, my year long contract finished on Thursday, instead of Friday. The students I taught on Christmas Day watched Merry Christmas Mr. Bean and A Charlie Brown Christmas, Mr. Bean entertains ESL students because of the physical comedy and minimal amount of dialogue, A Charlie Brown Christmas tugs at the heartstrings of even the most jaded curmudgeon and that old tymey animation continues to resonant with the child in all.
Once I’d assembled my collection of gifts I lugged my backpack and bags to the Post Office wherein the store pretty much stopped to help with the crazy laowei. They refused to let me send home the flint-lock lighter on the grounds it was a firearm. Technically that may be correct but realistically due to it being flammable seems a more apt reason to deny me. The items didn’t weight much but were bulky and no box fit it, in a feat of Chinese ingenuity then ‘renovated’ a box for me. Taking one box, cutting apart another and slotting and taping them together to fit my loot for shipping to Canada.
It’s been an odd, up -and-down year for me in China, I’m leaving Nanjing tomorrow and I don’t know if I’ll be back again, but there were moments when the people of this province truly made me appreciate my good fortune and the kindness of humanity.
With 2014 being a fresh start, and the Lunar New Year fast approaching…
Let me thank you all for reading and wish…
The Compliments of the Season upon you and yours.