NYU Shanghai

A world without Thanksgiving, or Christmas

The dark sky outside my window at 5pm, the chilly fall air and sweatshirts begin to draw from within me a nostalgia for Christmas in New York.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, the city must be getting ready for the holiday season. But in the brisk, cool air Shanghai is the same as in weeks past. Starbucks here has pulled out its holiday fare of Christmas-themed decor, cups and thermoses. But no “buy one get one free” Peppermint Mocha awaits me. Colored snowflake-shaped lights hang from the trees in Jing’an district, but those are rendered un-Christmaslike by the green illumination lights.

Christmas, and all that it brings with it, is not apparent. As much as I enjoy life here, I’m glad that I decided to rush home for Christmas, because Christmas brings more than a New York spectacle; it brings memories.

Memories of childhood excitement at preparing gifts, wrapping gifts, watching others receive gifts and unwrapping gifts. Memories of buying rotisserie chicken at Ivarone Brothers late one fall afternoon. The annual drive in the cold to my relatives’ house for Thanksgiving dinner. Nursing home visits; caroling; preparation for Christmas activities. Setting up the tree, decorations beginning to pop up everywhere in the neighborhood.

The last few years in New York I was secretly annoyed at all this fanfare, for the annual fuss about decorations, gifts and trees seemed a waste of time, money and effort. But here I find comfort in the bit of festive red on Starbucks’ cups and the wreath on my dormmate’s door. They signify the Christmas and family times I look forward to when I return to the States. My heart is warmed.

Traditions can seem pointless, but when they are taken away I realize how precious they are.

Shanghai’s People’s Square is filled with lights, but not Christmas ones.

 

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