My Christmas carol
By Luke Shen-Tien Chi  ·  2022-12-23  ·   Source: NO.1 JANUARY 5, 2023


Christmas cakes on display at a bakery in Shenyang, Liaoning Province (COURTESY PHOTO) 

Christmas has come and gone once again. I'd been wanting to go holiday shopping ever since China eased its COVID-19 response measures in early December 2022, riding my scooter across town and going to IKEA to get ready for the big holiday.

My mom, Chen Yinyin, was a single parent in New York City, the U.S. During the Christmas holiday, she would always make sure our home had a real festive feel to it—and she'd always make sure to get a real tree. We'd decorate it with ornaments and lights on the morning of December 25. And I always knew presents awaited. Over the years, I've never forgotten these happy moments.

I first arrived in China in late 2008 and have since settled down in Shenyang, capital city of Liaoning Province in the northeast. Even though Christmas is not an official holiday in China, many shop windows will feature seasonal decorations and some locals, too, will buy Christmas gifts for their families and friends.

My expat buddies used to consider Christmas a time to collectively enjoy a nice dinner and share year-end stories. My Chinese friends also often partook in celebrating the holiday. But with the outbreak of COVID-19, all that changed. Our traditional Christmas gathering got canceled twice due to the pandemic.

I tested positive for Omicron on December 13, 2022, and had almost all the symptoms. As the disease progressed, I got a fever and sore muscles. I figured this would be the end of my holiday, a rather unfortunate occurrence given our gathering with pals was set to resume after the two-year hiatus. As I knew my body preferred natural herbs, I decided to take the path of traditional Chinese medicine. With the help of this ancient form of healing, plenty of rest and plenty of water, my body put up a good fight and I made a speedy recovery. It seemed Christmas had not been lost, after all.

After feeling much more like my normal self again, I went to the cinema to catch the latest action-adventure blockbuster, Avatar: The Way of Water. When I saw the fantasy epic on the big screen, I felt a huge sense of relief, like the movie theater was the only world that existed in that very moment.

Nevertheless, I know the pandemic is still on the loose. But people should remain strong and brave; getting sick is not something to be afraid of. Instead, it is an experience that gives us all something to share. Embrace it and get through it. People all agree that everything happens for a reason. And until we learn what that reason is, I hope most of you were able to enjoy a very happy Christmas and I would like to wish all of you a wonderful 2023. 

The author is an American-born Chinese who teaches at Shenyang Normal University 

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon 

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