Festivities and Preparations
Perhaps because China gets very much on the Commercial Everything (and therefore by extension, Commercial Christmas) Bandwagon, and also perhaps because I was missing a family Christmas for the first time ever and was therefore a little too despondent to pay much attention to the goings-on around me, I didn’t particularly notice much in the way of holiday spirit in Shenzhen. Christmas in Southern China seemed sort of rote, like it was a thing we did but because it was expected, not because anyone was really that excited about it. I suspect this had as much to do with a lack of school holiday as anything else; kids in the States get excited about the Holidays because, well, a) there are presents and b) they get 2 weeks off from school. Basically, the two most important things in life. Also in the Pacific Northwest there is the often-vain-but-never-quenched hope of a snow day or two, the chance to toboggan down the Alameda hill and also, hey, have a holiday from school.
Well, I don’t know how much the families in Indonesia actually celebrate Christmas and/or bestow gift-wrapped goodies on their progeny, but man, is our school ever excited about Christmas. Whether it has to do with the impending month-long holiday, I don’t know; but I do know that even the bitterest Scrooge or hardest-hearted Grinch would have a hard time not getting swept up in the fervour, as elf-like students and teachers all run around Who-ishly festooning and bedecking and adorning and tinselling the halls.
I was put in charge of the school’s Christmas Tree, a 2.5-metre monster that is presently holding court in the foyer. Putting the thing together was a fun but exhausting chore that required me to spend a rather remarkable amount of time impersonating Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane. That is to say, the unwrapping/de-plasticking/branch-placing all took place in the school’s Rubbish Room, to keep it away from pitter-pattering feet, and I was then required to walk the pieces of what looked like giant prickly shrubbery quite a ways down the main hall to get them to the appropriate Christmas Tree Placement.
The students were amazed.
I then had all kinds of help offered, and happily relinquished the job of bough-fluffing to eager elves until about the second tier, after which the thing was simply too tall for small persons to be of much help. That didn’t deter them, however; never have I seen such meticulously fluffed boughs as those at the bottom of our Noble Faux-Fir.
Luckily, once I’d dispensed with my tree duties, I found that the rest of the staff had taken charge of decorating all the rest. Practically overnight the school went Christmas Crazy, with bows and bells, silver and gold, and all manner of signage proclaiming the season. For a couple of days you couldn’t turn around without spotting some teacher up on a step-ladder with hands full of holiday artefacts and rolls of scotch tape.
The Christmas Craze has overtaken the classrooms as well, resulting in a charmingly bizarre melange of ornaments and decorations, particularly on the tree. We have the requisite strings of lights, which, again, were my purview as the Christmas Tree Czarina (so dubbed by my boss), cheerily a-glow and a-blinking throughout the school day; but the real treasures are the darling little felt and paper ornaments that the students have excitedly crafted. P6 contributed a huge origami paper chain that slinks up the entire tree; the sewing club (one of our extra-curricular activities) made little felt stockings after their teacher cornered me in a staff meeting and demanded to know what items best symbolised Christmas – there was a bit of an hilarious miscommunication when she asked if they should make “socks” and another teacher adamantly insisted they were called “mistletoes” – and various other classrooms have contributed Styrofoam “presents” covered with giftwrap, small paper cubes and other odd, assorted adornments. Though probably utterly lost on most who see it, for me the whole effect sort of evokes Linus quietly stepping centre stage and telling Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas, as shiny baubles could not be more precious than these cheerfully hand-crafted ones.
Our Christmas festivities will culminate in a school-wide celebration this Friday. At the moment there are grand plans for all sorts of performances, exhibitions, and holiday treats. P5 is busily preparing a rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy” complete with choice pieces of the school’s drumset. Primaries 1 and 2 were this afternoon spotted prancing about at a full fever pitch to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas.” Year 7 will contribute a choreographed “12 Days of Christmas” which has more than once had me nearly snorting with laughter as they flap, chicken-like, to the lyric, “three french hens.” Whatever the reason, be it Holiday Spirit or Vacation Fever, this is fast becoming one of the most memorable Christmas seasons in which I have ever had the privilege to participate. Now, if you’ll kindly imagine the immortal voice of Jimmy Stewart issuing the following proclamation: Merry Christmas, Kingston School!