I celebrated my first Christmas in China in 2009, but now, under a new regime by Xi Jinping, all public displays of the Christmas cheer are banned, making Mr. Xi the ultimate Grinch. However, that did not stop me from putting on the outfit of Father Christmas and visiting my students at school. I still can not quite figure out how they knew it was me.
I am one of those people who simply enjoy sharing and giving thanks to the special people in my life. That truly makes this time of year special for me, especially here in, China.
I do have plenty to be thankful for because throughout my life, people have gone out of their way to be kind to me and the Chinese here are no exception. In class, I once told my students that when you care for others, you are cared for, and when you love others, you are loved. This special season should reveal our love for one another through kindness because loving kindness gives this special season its true meaning.
Before Xi Jinping came into power, the cities in China would be lit up with Christmas lights and beautifully displayed. That also brought out the Christmas spirit in me. The Chinese enjoyed celebrating the season with the lighting of bonfires. Some would sing songs and dance around the large glowing fires. They would set off large firework displays as well in the night sky. It was an ancient tradition that goes back thousands of years. It was a way of coming together as a community to celebrate their abundance. To be thankful for having one another in their lives. That was one reason I found this season so special here.
Like in America, Parents and children alike once took great joy
in Santa’s arrival on Christmas Day. I still enjoy seeing the young
children’s faces light up at the sight of Santa, the jolly old soul.
There was a time, though, when I felt the season of giving was simply a common courtesy to receive and provide our significant others with material gifts. I now understand more clearly that this special season is for heartfelt acts of gratitude for having people in our lives. Keeping the true spirit of giving close to heart enables us to give from the heart all year-round.
The yuletide season should be when our love comes to call because that love gives this time of year its true meaning. I have found over the years that it is not the material gifts that count in life but rather the unrecognized, undetected, and unremembered acts of loving-kindness that are our greatest gifts and achievements in life.
If we want to see a world of loving and joyous people, we must be loving and joyous towards the people in our own lives. That potential is part of our humanity.
When we reach out and touch others, we touch a part of the humanity within us. When we enhance the life of another in need, we, in turn, enhance our own lives.
Remember that objects gift-wrapped in shiny paper can be forgotten over time, but kindness whispered to those in need will echo endlessly throughout the community. Those small acts of kindness resonate with the giver and the receiver because they are gifts from the heart. Such priceless gifts can never be measured monetarily, though, because how can you put a price on love?
From my heart to yours, I would like to wish all of you a very merry and joyous holiday season.
Here is my link to see the celebrating youngsters during my first year in China.
Thomas F O'Neill's Christmas celebration at the
Suzhou International Foreign Language School in Suzhou, China.
- Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
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