Christmastime in China was a new kind of beautiful. Malls and streets are decked with lights, decorations, blow-up figures that seemed so familiar to home. I quickly learned that while some loved ones were far away, being surrounded by people whose friendship I’d come to cherish made the holidays just as special.
Because we knew holidays can be one time when being miles away from family can be challenging, a small friend group had a slumber party on Christmas Eve. We sat around eating jiao zi (dumplings) with our clumsily-held chopsticks, shared our Christmas family traditions, called our families (facetime met everyone’s families & dogs, which honestly was the highlight of the night), listened to our favorite Christmas tunes, and dozed to sleep (continuing to text to each other from separate rooms late into the night, as millennials do).
Christmas morning we shared small gifts with each other and made a special breakfast, then piled into a didi (uber/lyft) and met some local teachers from our center for lunch at… The Cheesecake Factory. Because let’s be honest… What’s more familiar than the Cheesecake Factory?
We did yet another gift exchange, ordered food familiar to us, and then enjoyed some infamous cheesecake together. Afterwards, we wandered through the mall looking at the Christmas trees and traditional decorations. We closed out the day by swapping scenes to walk through ancient Beijing streets and marvel at the contrast in beauty.
Sharing the specialty of Christmas with newfound friends who were also far from loved ones was a bond that strengthened our friendship, and it was a Christmas for the books.