Foreign Perspective: Never Have, Never Will Celebrate Christmas

oberdorf_foreignperspectiveGrowing up atheist, I don’t recall celebrating the birth of baby Jesus in an all-American, church-going, gifts-under-the-illuminated-tree-by-the-fireplace way.

My parents couldn’t care less about the holiday. It wasn’t much more than the massive department store discounts and one more lame excuse to stuff our faces with cake. Yes, cake. A snow-capped wood log-shaped ice cream cake topped with a candy figurine carved to resemble jolly old Santa. My mom even followed that up with roasted chicken legs and Fanta Grape in champagne glasses. Nothing quite like cake screams holidays in Japan. At least in the small town of Soka, Saitama – thanks to a successful marketing by bakeries. Or maybe it was just my parents who liked their yearly milestones with some icing and a cherry on top.

I don’t remember what my family did on 25th of December for the first four years of my life in China, but I’m pretty sure my grandparents skipped Christmas and went straight to making dumplings and packing hongbaos for Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year. I do know, that after moving back to China, my family barely had time for cutting up cake or exchanging gifts.

The closest thing to an American-style Christmas I had was that one time I spent my winter break with my current roommate where her parents cooked Brazilian dishes and family friends came over to play exchange gifts. And did I mention that there were healthy amounts of Guitar Hero competitions and karaoke duets involved?

This year, I will spend my winter break with my cousin in Florida. So far, our plans don’t include a roasted turkey with gravy, carol singing, a red-nosed reindeer, a jolly old man in a red suit, candy canes or egg nogg. But I’m pretty sure we’ll have plenty of fun.

Photo by Victoria Oberdorf


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