As a kid growing up in France, Christmas was not a happy time for me. It was rather one of the worst. A cruel reminder that I was different from the others and that I didn’t belong to the culture of the country where I lived.
France had welcomed me and my family, and gave us the unique chance to start over and build a new life. The only thing is, when you are political refugees escaping your country at war, you don’t really get to choose the new culture in which you’ll have to start from scratch. It took my parents some time to adjust to France, their new country, and to integrate part of its culture into their daily life.
When I used to ask for Christmas presents and Christmas tree, my mom would just shush me away. I’d have none of that. Instead, I’d have to wait for another few weeks to receive my hong bao, a red envelope containing money which adults give to children as a Chinese New Year treat. I didn’t understand the whole point of celebrating Chinese New Year. We were not in China and I still have to go to school on that day – that was not a real holidays! All I wanted was Christmas. I wanted to have something to say to my classmates when, back at school, everybody would ask what gifts he or she got for Christmas.
Being a kid of Chinese roots in France would translate into several challenges. Christmas was one of them.
After I left France for China, Christmas was just something exotic I would easily forget about. Ten years ago, there was no Christmas decoration and no Christmas song on the streets (there is now), no Santa Claus picture taking in the shopping malls. Nobody would celebrate Christmas on that part of the earth (some do now). For the first five years I spent in China, I didn’t fly back to France for the holidays. Christmas completely lost its meaning. Until one day I realized it was up to me to give that day a new meaning – my own meaning.
The same way we say one shouldn’t wait for New Year to make resolutions, one shouldn’t wait for Christmas to enjoy certain things. However, Christmas can be a good opportunity to do the following:
- Slowing down: As we are usually given some time off from work during that period, with business slowing down for mostly everyone, Christmas is a good time to reduce the pace.
- Reflecting and planning: With the year coming to an end, Christmas is also the time when I look back at the past twelve months, assess what worked well and what didn’t work, reflect on the areas where there is room for improvement, and plan the upcoming year by deciding what the priorities and objectives will be.
- Being in my creative mood and doing more writing: Unlike some people who hate winter, I just love this season. I find the crisp cold air rejuvenating and inspiring. There’s something wild and melancholic about winter which really wakes up my creative mood and helps me be in an uplifted writing spirit.
- Spending time with my loved ones: Whether we celebrate it or not with a lavish dinner (we do now), Christmas has become for me an excuse for me to fly back home and spend some time with my family, those who made me a Fearfighter. Today I also have two beautiful nieces, of whom I’m deeply fond. Time flies and they’re growing so fast, but seeing them opening up to the wonders of life makes me go back to a time of innocence. And I truly cherish that feeling.
- Feeling grateful: For having the chance to live another year full of learning, growth, self-discovery and everyday amazement about the world. For having new people entering my life and inspiring me. For living another year of the meaningful life I have built over time.
Christmas now is another opportunity for me to realize how blessed I am and what a wonderful journey life is.
What is it for you? Tell me about your Christmas!