I woke up at 7 a.m. Christmas morning with the same inkling of giddiness I have every Christmas morning. It must have been out of habit because my hopes were quickly dashed when I remembered that Santa does not in fact have my new address written down. However, as I crawled out of bed and winced as my bare toes hit the icy floor, I captured a little ounce of Christmas magic when I opened my taupe polyester curtains to see the ever so subtle dusting of snow on the rooftops of Hangzhou.
I got my white Christmas after all.
Granted, the snow had come and gone again before noon, but that's beside the point.
Christmas Eve had been a buzz kill. After working for most of the day, we went to get massages. The massage was more of a full body beat down. Both Alex and I left in pain and Alex’s masseuse gave her a special takeaway gift of the sniffles. We were sad and hungry, so we went to December Chief for burgers.
He was closed.
We tried catching a taxi to go to a different restaurant and for ten minutes we shivered until we were too discouraged. Our last shot for a Christmas Eve dinner was at our usual dumpling haunt – they were still open, but they were without dumplings. We halfheartedly ate some noodles, returned home, and quickly went off to sleep to make the time go more quickly.
After quite a few Christmas morning Skype calls and video chats with my family and friends, Alex and I went to the gym to kill a couple of hours.
"Merry Christmas!" I told the women's locker custodian.
"Wo ting bu dong!" (I don't understand!) she replied.
Of course she didn't understand, Christmas Day is just a date in late December for the majority of China.
Alex and I had to make Christmas our own, so we decided to shop and then go out to dinner. Fifteen shivering minutes and zero green lights for taxis later, we decided to say the hell with it and go in and watch a movie.
We sat on my uncomfortable bed in my cozy, warm (yes, warm!) room and watched “Sex in the City” as we drank red wine from juice glasses. An entire bottle of red wine, actually.
It was the most perfect kind of Christmas given how odd our lives have been the past few months. Once we finished the movie, we went to dinner at a café a few minutes down the road that serves western food and wasn’t charging exorbitant prices for a special Christmas menu.
I traded my usual stuffing for tomato soup, my traditional turkey for a Mexican breakfast burrito, and my grandma’s lefse for a cold pancake with applesauce on top. The only dish to make both my American and Chinese Christmas dinner table was mashed potatoes.
Today we went hiking with some new friends. The day was as brilliant as days come in Hangzhou and we hiked along the top ridge of the mountains lining West Lake. Once we reached the top, Alex and I yelled. Screamed. Shouted. As loud as we could.
(Here’s the method to our madness: Scream for your health)
The air was crisp, the views were brilliant, and the conversation was intriguing. It was the ideal way to end our Christmas weekend, which certainly had the potential to be awful. In the end, we managed to etch out our own Merry Little Christmas…In China.