What does Christmas in the classroom even look like? Well, here’s what it looks like in my classroom for Christmas 2012 (it’s looked different every single year.)
Decorating has honestly been one of my sole comforts in the classroom this month, as the holiday season in Taiwan seems to always flood me with a sudden sense of obligation, nostalgia, happiness, and stress. There is quite a simple explanation for this array of emotion that I experience every year around this time.
Obligation: Living in a non-Christianized nation but having grown up in the world of an annual Christmas celebration that included everything from the temporary satisfaction of consumerism to parades and religious practices complete with candles and a Christmas tree kind of changes the holiday dynamic. In a sense, it turns the whole holiday into an experience of social education because suddenly others around me (students included) who have no idea what all the Christmas hubbub is about want in on the fun. And thanks to the whole meaning behind the real Christmas story, there is a need to share it – and explain it.
Nostalgia: Christmas just isn’t the same in Taiwan. Homes everywhere aren’t strewn with strings of light. The atmosphere doesn’t bristle up with anticipation as people are madly checking off Christmas wish lists. People in school and education aren’t getting out of work and class for a 2 week vacation. Snow isn’t a part of the landscape at all – not that snow is a determining factor of course. PLENTY of societies have happily celebrated snowless Christmases for year. Only a handful of places around here get complete decked out in Christmas decor. There are definitely clusters of festivity and fun that are awesome, but it’s definitely a time when homesickness can hit you hard if you think about it too much.
Happiness: Christmas is still an awesome time of the year. And it really is a wonderful experience to share it with the people around you. It’s an excuse to lavish students, co-workers and friends with treats and gifts and greetings of good cheer. When you’ve been conditioned to live in anticipation of a celebration of food, gifts, and family every December 25, it’s just kind of in your blood to live that out every December. And celebrating it with others who share that value with you make it all the better. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Stress: But alas, experiencing all this in a country that doesn’t have the blood of Christmas running through its veins can be a bit stressful when you, as the cultural professional on the whole holiday, are expected to decorate, educate, and plan all the events. And being an English teacher and missionary throws all those responsibilities on you – TIMES TWO.
But when it comes down to it, I try really hard this time of year not to take out all my negativity on my students. I brighten the atmosphere via Christmas decorations and Christmas music and Christmas treats. The Christmas cheer seems to help both student and teacher, especially when at the school I teach at shoves all the exam-administering and report-writing and other important urgent items around this time of the year. Suddenly, Christmas becomes a way to survive for all.
Merry Christmas, everybody!