Holidays are notoriously hard for exchange students. Personally, I’m really big on family and my family’s traditions, so during the past two weeks I felt especially homesick; I may have shed a few tears. That being said, I had an awesome experience celebrating Christmas and the New Year on the other side of the world.
The holiday festivities started with all 15 of us AFS students performing in a TV show for the local Changzhou station. It was basically a TV show highlighting the “foreigners of Changzhou”. Our performance was comprised of some people singing two songs (one of which required background dancers) and then everyone dancing Xiao Pingguo. We had to choreograph everything with the TV people and rehearse a bunch of times. The day the show was recorded, we got fancy outfits and got our hair and makeup done. All in all, it was a cool experience.
On Christmas Eve, we attended a Christmas party at my school hosted by the foreign teachers and the “America classes”. On Christmas, we were supposed to go to school, but our teachers told us we didn’t have to come if we didn’t want to. Instead, a bunch of the AFSers went to the church in Changzhou (which was packed), and then we all had a HUGE lunch at an Italian restaurant. The lunch was really nice, and we also did our Secret Santa gift exchange there! During the afternoon, we ended up dancing and playing music on a Coca Cola advertisement in the middle of the shopping plaza. Maybe almost 100 Chinese people gathered to watch us! After, we all went to KTV. Although it’s not the way I usually celebrate Christmas, it was still a really good day.
For New Years, we first went to have dinner at the one “real” American restaurant in Changzhou. All of our host families let us stay out really late to celebrate, and we got fireworks and all that. We even met some random Chinese people who shared their sparklers and firework sticks with us. We had a break from school from the 1st to the 3rd for the New Year, but then had to go to school on a Sunday to make up for one of those days.
The holidays were pretty sad in China because no one really celebrates them as much as they do in America. But we made the most of it either way, and had our own little celebrations! If you can’t be with your real family for Christmas, who better to celebrate with than your AFS family?