I’d be lying if I said that every day in China is a happy day. I am certainly happier than I think I would be back in Denmark, my job is better, my potential career path is more clear I likely earn slightly more than I would at home as well. I am surrounded by nice people, I have almost everything I want, I travel, I meet new friends and I have time to do my own projects, too. But there are days and times where you really wish you were at home with the rest of your family. Being homesick is natural, and I think, in a way also healthy. It is human nature to miss the place we came from and the people who were around us since we were small children.
Being far away from home and being sick, is definitely up there on the list of times where you wish you’d never moved out of your parents’ house. I miss my mom bringing me a warm blanket or just putting her hand on my head to check my fever. I miss when she would make me a cup of warm water with sugar. I’d ask for more and she always said no. I miss my dad keeping me entertained at home. Bringing me food or putting on my favourite movies. I miss my sister checking in on me, just to make sure that I was alright.
Thankfully I do not get sick often, and when I do it is usually just a mild cold that passes quickly. So being sick, while near the top of my list isn’t the very top. Christmas is.
Christmas is something ingrained in western culture. And while Christmas has turned into a little bit of a competition of who can buy the best gifts, my family has still very much been able to retain the essence of what we felt Christmas meant to us. Having the family over, having delicious, delicious food. Having fun and playing games. It’s not so much about the presents (of course gifts are always appreciated) but it was about being with the people who are closest to you, sharing the food and the atmosphere. Christmas is something that you uniquely celebrate with your family, rarely your friends. I was talking to my friend Paul who returned to the US after two years of teaching in China and he agreed that Christmas is something you celebrate with your family, your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, not something you’d usually celebrate with your friends. New Year’s Eve perhaps, but not Christmas.
Living in a country where Christmas isn’t widely celebrated, except for the Chinese people shopping a lot it can be really hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Sure you see the decorations, you hear the music but when your family is not around you to share it, it all kind of loses its meaning. At least for me. I spend all of December just working and enjoying my free time as usual. I could do more to get in the mood, but I just don’t “feel it”. I want to, but without my family around it just seems pointless and so when I am in China, Christmas means a lot less to me than when I am at home.
As I was walking outside today, I snapped a picture of my surroundings. This is a photo of a street I walk on every day, going to the subway station. Not exactly a symbol of the holidays. But then again, you’ll find many streets in Denmark that also do not really have much in terms of Christmas decorations.
This is very much the same that I expect Chinese people to feel, when they are in another country, like the U.S, and they celebrate their Spring festival. Not everyone has their family with them, but the Chinese do have the distinct advantage of being many people, so many in fact, that in some places they have their own little China Towns. So the Chinese can still celebrate together in these places, but I bet it isn’t the same as being back home with their families.
It has been 5 years since I moved to China, 5 and a half, actually, and in that time I have only celebrated Christmas one time, last year when I decided to spend Christmas at home. And I loved it. It was quiet, calm, homely and it was exactly what I expected, and also something I think I needed. It wasn’t about the gifts it was just being with my family on this special day, enjoying it and enjoying them. That was all I needed and all I wanted. And I am already looking forward to next time I can go home for Christmas.