Never mind the Epiphany or the Twelve Days of Christmas: I am finished with Christmas and ready to move on. I love the lead-up to Christmas - the carols (mostly just the traditional ones for me: no Mariah Carey or Justin Timberlake writing new ones OR singing the classics), the opening of the Advent calendars at breakfast, the Christmas baking, and the Secret Santa silliness at work. Bitter people seem to lighten up a bit and you can see the world through shiny, sparkly glasses instead of the usual smudged ones.
I am not a gal who is big on traditions, as a rule. I am a bit of the prodigal daughter - the one who left everything behind and began a new life in Asia. I met my husband on the plane ride over (on the first trip ever to Asia to teach at a high school in Taiwan), we met our children in China some 14 years later after stints in Korea and Minneapolis/St. Paul, and now we live in Hong Kong.
|Making dumplings for Chinese New Year|
My husband is American, I'm Canadian, our kids are dual citizens with Chinese heritage. Don comes from a Catholic background; I come from a Mennonite pacifist tradition, and we are surrounded by Buddhist influences here in our Hong Kong village. Just outside of the gate to our house is a little altar that burns year round with joss sticks, and where our neighbors often leave offerings like oranges and pomelos. Burning paper money, known as ghost money, is an ancient Chinese tradition that honors the deceased ancestors. We regularly see and smell this ritual as well.
Living with such diversity in our lives and in the culture that we find ourselves in, we have created our own traditions that amalgamate the best of all of our respective cultures and backgrounds and honor where we are living. Most of the year, however, we live by the seat of our pants. (In a good way, of course.) Our free moments are spent hiking the nearby hills in our rural part of Hong Kong, traveling back to China when we can, and getting ourselves to close-by, inexpensive beach destinations like Thailand and other places that might seem exotic to those of you living in other climes. (Ah, the lives of international school teachers: we're a lucky bunch!)
I love my life, but while we forge ahead in our exotic-to-others life, work-a-day to us, I do sometimes miss the traditions of my youth. When I see the pictures on facebook of my mom and dad and sister and brother and their families all celebrating this season together, I yearn to be there. When people post pictures of mountains freshly powdered in snow, I suddenly resent the never-too-cold climate that we live in. (Our friends were swimming in the ocean just three days ago!) I have dreams of the spicy aroma of German Christmas goodies baking, and I'd kill for my mother's freshly baked bread slathered with butter straight out of her oven along with some hearty gruene borscht.
That being said, I'm the gal who is pretty much done with the whole Christmas affair by the time the last gift has been unwrapped. The build up is a beautiful thing, the culmination delights me, and then it's over. I had to restrain myself from taking down the tree on Christmas Day since the gifts were opened and the dinner was had on Christmas Eve. Yes, I enjoy the twinkling of the lights and the aura that surrounds the house when it's all decked up for Christmas, but we live in Hong Kong. The houses are small. It can get a bit stifling.
To top it off, I've recently had surgery and we've had to move our bed into the living room because I can't get up the stairs to our bedroom. That makes us especially cramped. I have a walking frame I need to use for the next month or two, and I can't tell you the number of times I've brushed against the tree and nearly knocked it down as I attempted to push past it. I tossed my bathrobe off last night in the dark and it nearly landed on the Christmas star. When your tree starts becoming your clothing rack, it's time to go.
It's New Year's Eve here in Hong Kong and I've held off until now, but I can wait no longer. There's a card table to set up so I can do some jigsaw puzzles. Plus, New Year's Eve just seems like the right time to clean up and move forward. Out with the old and in with the new and all that. As I write on the bed (invalid that I am), vaccuuming is underway, a back room is being gutted of non-essential stuff, the girls are finding errant decorations and toys in between playing with light sabers made out of Christmas gift wrap rolls. We have a New Year's Eve afternoon party to go to shortly, but we'll all be showering first so we can get ready to greet the new year in our own, non-traditional style: everyone fast asleep in bed but me, who is up fighting her sleep and crosswording or reading.
New starts? I like them very much. I try to have them every day, but I especially like my New Year's New Start. I ordered my 2013 daily agenda book months ago, and I can't wait to start making lists in it tomorrow.
Bring on 2013! Many blessings and much happiness to you all!