Christmas Eve (and New Year’s Eve) – Taiwan (2013)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I finish this post, it is New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow is a holiday and there are three students here to hang out and see in the new year. A couple of them will spend the night and welcome New Year’s Day in our apartment.

Last week at this time, it was Christmas Eve. In Taiwan, Christmas is not a holiday. So on Christmas Day, I taught a two hour writing class in the morning, had a couple of office hours, and then taught a general English class for two hours in the late afternoon. (Sorry, no photo of me teaching in my Santa hat.)

On Christmas Eve day (Tuesday), I also taught and had meetings, but in spite of the work schedule, we still decided to have a special gathering for Christmas Eve at our apartment. We had a ready-made guest list. Let me explain.

Two weeks ago, I started meeting with a group of young ladies who were interested in working on their English writing. We had our first meeting on December 11 to explore our ideas and make plans. Some of the ideas include writing prompts, reading and commenting on each others’ writing projects, seeing and writing about a movie, and other ideas that we dream up along the way.

With high enthusiasm, eight young ladies agreed that we should do this on a weekly basis, so on the 18th we moved to another coffee shop for our second meeting. At that meeting, we had sign-up sheets for the next two Tuesdays, the Eves of Christmas and New Year’s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Christmas Eve, we had 8 for dinner, not the exact 8 that started out that first night, but our group is growing, and not everyone could make the holiday gatherings. But 8 for Christmas Eve was pretty nice. As my husband put the finishing touches on dinner, the girls put up the table top Christmas tree and decorated it. They had each brought a gift for an exchange. It was great fun, as everyone ended up with gifts that suited their interests. Santa brought writing notebooks for everyone, too!

Between Christmas and New Year’s, the main core of students in this group decided that they wanted to become an official student organization in the school. Since I’m already meeting with this group on a weekly basis, it’s no extra work for me. But it’s nice to get credit for being an advisor to an English Writing Club at a Taiwanese university. It turns out we needed 20 students to sign that they were interested in the idea. I had two sign up sheets with 20 each, so I could offer them to students at either side of the room if they were interested. I was shocked to not only get all forty spots filled, but have other students still asking if they could sign. Maybe I can start a movement. Prior to this, English writing has been a bit of a challenge on our campus, so as we go into 2014, there is an exciting shift. My work as a writing teacher here is starting to pay off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo tonight, on New Year’s Eve, we only have three visitors. But they have taken down the tree, watched some English comedy video, and are now working on a jigsaw puzzle. Two of them will curl up on our couches and spend the night (the 3rd lives next door). I get to see in the new year with my husband and three young women who are as interested in writing as I am. It’s going to be a good year!

One of the gift exchange photos

One of the gift exchange photos

Opening writing notebooks from Santa

Opening writing notebooks from Santa

Jigsaw puzzle on New Year's Eve

Jigsaw puzzle on New Year’s Eve

MUSIC THEME FOR DECEMBER 25 – HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

English: Merry Christmas Briggate, Leeds

Briggate, Leeds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It feels a bit like Christmas to me!

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know that I’ve been participating in a group of people who do musical (and other artistic) interpretations of various themes. I have now been invited to also take a turn in the rotation for selecting the theme, and my first time is NOW! What better theme for me to start with than Christmas?

So bring out those songs, movie clips, pictures, poetry, and other artistic bits!

  • Will you be home for the holidays this year?
  • Are you hosting those who are coming home for the holidays?
  • Do you want to run away from home for the holidays?

Some of my personal thoughts on the topic.

As I spend my fifth Christmas away from the US, I think a lot about how my attitude about the holidays has changed. In spite of those changes, I still think about the fact that I won’t be home for the holidays. Not that I was really ever that HOME anyway. I was a church musician for years, which meant that I worked all the holidays, particularly Christmas and Easter. And now in Taiwan, where Christmas is not a national holiday, I actually teach this week, even on Christmas Day.

Also, the holidays bring so many high (and dashed) expectations of how things should be, along with memories of how they were in the past. Even though some of those memories have been idealized beyond what really happened. The holidays have good moments and bad moments; and those idealized memories only contribute to the disappointment we often feel when the present doesn’t match up to that idealized past.

And then add home to the mix. We have idealized ideas of home and family, and how we should all be happy and harmonious. Again, we all have good moments and bad moments. I think it best that we accept the reality and stop setting ourselves up for unavoidable disappointment. I’m sure my children, for example, have both good and not-so-good memories of the holidays with a mother who always worked through them.

What I’ve learned by being away is that by lowering the expectations of what I want the holiday to be, I can create new memories of Christmas present instead of being haunted by illusions of Christmas past. For me, that has been the most helpful, finding new ways to add something to the season–not in terms of pressure or extra obligations, but rather to reduce the reliance on what we did in the past and plan a holiday that expresses who we are in the moment.

So I invite all of you to join fellow themists, Eva, Johnny, Willow, BearD.S. Nelson, and Collaborator, and join in the festivities. Show us the music, clips, and other works of art that mean home and holiday to you. It will be fun to see what everyone comes up with.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!