Upon leaving Canada, I knew I would miss a few of the western holidays I love to celebrate, like Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas. What I didn’t realize then, and have only come to realize now, is that the Chinese people understand very little about western holidays and traditions.
Halloween is very much a western tradition. Most of the students here know a little about the holiday and the activities that accompany it through other foreigners they have met, but they have never experienced the festivities themselves. This is in contrast with my co-workers, most of whom know nothing at all about the holiday. To inform our co-workers about western holidays, and to alleviate a bit of our own homesickness, the other co-op students and I decided to plan and host a Halloween party.
It was fabulous! We explained to our coworkers where the original idea of Halloween came from and how children in Canada celebrate the holiday by dressing up and going “Trick or Treating”. So to show them what it looked like, we all dressed up in costumes. For the party we blacked out all the windows of my classroom and prepared a haunted house for smalls groups to pass through. There were scarecrows jumping out at people, a gross feeling station, and a dummy that grabbed people around their feet as they passed. I think the most excitement we had was when my roommate lit her mummy costume on fire with a candle!! The “stop, drop, and roll” technique we learned in elementary school finally became useful, and she managed to put herself out; but not until after she had rolled into more of the candles.
Following the haunted house we carved pumpkins. I was quite surprised that there were pumpkins in China, mind you they were a little on the expensive side. At first our co-workers didn’t know what to do, and they just looked at the pumpkins and knives in confusion. After we demonstrated how to carve one, they really got into it and made some pretty good looking jack-o-lanterns! Everyone was amazed at the activities and all the costumes. I think the best part of the celebration was when our cake became ammunition during a massive cake fight. Everyone was covered in cream!
The feedback we received from all the Chinese guests at our party was terrific, they really enjoyed themselves and were able to experience a bit of the western holiday I love. The lack of knowledge I have regarding Chinese holidays is comparable to that of my co-workers regarding western holidays, except I’m the one in China. I’m hoping that during my time here I can also gain experience and a greater understanding of the traditions and meanings behind the holidays the people in China celebrate.
Working and living here has really become an exchange and mingling of cultures that encompass every aspect. Not only has this experience fostered a greater understanding of communication and business styles, culinary tastes, and ideologies, but also of traditions. Enjoy the holidays and try to take some time to learn how other cultures celebrate their holidays, I’m sure you’ll find it an enlightening experience.I’m currently in the midst of planning a few parties for Christmas, a few for my students and one for my co-workers. I’m hoping to further expand their understanding of my favorite holiday of the year through these events; as it seems ironic that on bus windows and in the supermarkets there are signs in English saying “Merry Christmas”, when most of the people seeing them can’t read them or understand what they mean.
Beyond the Blog
- Visit the International Co-op page to gain experience like Carlie!