Celebrating Christmas as an English teacher in China was the gift of a lifetime. This may sound confusing as it falls amidst final exams and semester deadlines. I did wish for more hours in December. Yet, since that first year of teaching my job gave me the amazing opportunity to share the historical account of this amazing event. There have been changes since my first class of sheet draped angels holding foil stars. The questions and comments have represented the times. “Do you celebrate like they do on Friends?” “Does your family believe this?” “Are Jesus and Santa brothers?” “My aunt knows this story!” “Is this the silent night?”
Freshmen classes are known for their enthusiasm and holidays are no exception. Some years the requests “to do it like last year” began in October. The sophomores had spread the word and I knew my weekends before Christmas would be spent in an apartment full of laughing, singing, squealing freshmen. What would happen I could not have made up. One girl burst out during the telling of Luke 2 saying “it’s true! He’s real!” My bi-lingual scriptures were passed around like a hot potato. I discovered believers inviting classmates to celebrations. Thanks were given for a “cultural experience.” And a quiet girl asked why people wanted to kill him as a baby and as an adult.
Fast forward many years to a class of professors heading to the US. Their interest in Christmas hardly matched that of the undergraduates but they did want to go out for a special dinner. I invited them to my home afterwards with plans to share my personal traditions and the historical account. The dinner quickly took on a life of its own. I watched the holiday get-together disintegrate into drinking contests and practical jokes.
I berated myself. They would have been happy with just this shared meal. But I knew I wanted more. They left the restaurant laughing and shouting.
As we entered my apartment something happened. Their voices lowered and cell phones came out. They went from decoration to decoration—snapping pictures of everything. The dean of the biology department asked where I would be sitting and turned his phone to video. One woman was looking at the nativity set. Turning one of the figures around in her hand she held it up to me. “Is there a story that goes with this?”
Yes, as a matter of fact, there is.
Barbara Kindschi has been privileged and challenged to teach English in China, Myanmar, Laos, and beginning this year, Mongolia. Her classes have been filled with undergrads, professors, accountants, hotel employees, monks, government workers and beauty pageant contestants. They continue to be both her students and teachers. View Full Bio
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