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One of these days, I’ll get better at writing about things immediately after they happen. Today is not this day. So I want to share with you, precious reader, the magic of Christmas in China.

First, the “Christmas Spirit” just isn’t there. I’ve realized over the last month that one of the defining aspects of Christmas is its communal nature. Everyone (or nearly everyone) decorates for some winter holiday, from putting up lights to pumping air into inflatable snowmen. Trees abound, we get to talk about “festivus poles,” and in nearly every conversation there is some tangential connection to “the season.” Christmas music is heard for months, and you better not shout about it or your voice will be drowned out in a tide of pro-Xmas revelers. Holiday cheer is inescapable. It follows you everywhere, and it is (often obnoxiously, ye radio stations that start playing Christmas songs after Halloween) prevailing.

Here it is different. Sure, there are lots of Christmas trees, usually in shopping areas, and lots of Christmas night events (sorry Festivus revelers, only Christmas seems to have functionally penetrated this far into the Middle Kingdom), but the spirit isn’t there. Only our fellow foreigners (外国人) feel the excitement, and that’s a pretty small circle to be spreading cheer in a city of over 12 million people. No atmosphere = less festive = less motivated = waking up on the week of the 25th and realizing how you still need to buy gifts for those far and wide. It’s also one of the more stress inducing times to be abroad, as winter holidays are traditionally oriented towards family, and that’s just a thing that doesn’t come easy this side of the Pacific.

But it’s wasn’t all bad, nor entirely uneventful. The Shenzhen Education Bureau was kind enough to give us the day off, put us up in a hotel in Luohu, and throw us a little Christmas Eve banquet/party. 180 odd English speaking youths descended on a rather nice hotel, prepared to eat some adequately prepared “Western food,” and cut loose a little bit. Kane (our immediate supervisor and good friend) was chosen to MC for the Chinese impaired, and he led us through a series of official speeches before dinner hit the table.

MC Kane, ladies and gentlemen.

MC Kane, ladies and gentlemen.

The food was, as mentioned, adequate; the speeches, refined if a tad overlong; the MC-ing, through the roof. After a break to wedge some calories in our food holes, the real program for the night began, and a slate of CTLC teachers moved on and off stage, performing a variety of songs. While our coworkers are a talented group, the show was stolen by the performances of two groups of primary school students who were, in a word, adorable. Seriously, look at the pictures and tell me they aren’t adorable.

After the program concluded, a band (The Friendly Cannons, or so I’ve been told) took the stage and rocked out pretty hard for the rest of the night. We hung out, played some jianzi, and socialized before making the brilliant decision to head to a KTV (for the uninformed, like a slightly younger version of myself, a KTV is an establishment that essentially houses a number of private Karaoke rooms and serves booze and food). KTVs are…unique, and I’ll let the pictures serve as a testament to their singularity.

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-By Spenser