Far West in the Far East: Christmas in Kunming

It’s Christmas day here in China, but only Christmas Eve back home. I know the rhythms my friends and family are settling into in the States: the quiet streets, busy homes, smells of spices and baking, and the building anticipation of opening piles of colorful presents. Just writing that makes me feel a bit homesick, but thankfully Christmas is not a big deal in China so I don’t feel as lonely as I might if I were alone in a country that celebrates the holiday as fiercely as America does.

In Kunming, I’ve seen some half-hearted attempts at decorations, with lonely strips of tinsel tossed over a counter, or a cardboard Santa taped to a window, or restaurant employees wearing Santa hats, but in general today is just another weekday. I don’t have class, but that’s really only because my school caters to Westerners. The universities are open, though the Western instructors and students I know seem personally affronted by that. However, I think the Chinese are probably baffled by what a big deal we make out of Christmas.

With no religious connection to the holiday, I am actually a bit relieved at escaping the consumer hype of it. I think I’ll celebrate today with a walk in the sunshine, a hot white Russian, and dinner with my Jewish friend.