Christmas Decorations at the Mall, Ottawa, November 2014

“No, Mark. You can’t open this box of LEGO. Put it back on the shelf.”

“Kāi! Kāi!”

We are at Chapters and Mark really likes the LEGO and Duplo sets featuring planes and trucks, and he is determined: “Kāi, Kāi!” he says in Chinese—because “kāi” is easier to say than “open”? The mysterious brain of multicultural kids!

“Mark… I may have the solution to your problem,” I say, grabbing a book from the “Christmas selection” shelf. “Let me tell you about Santa Claus…”

But Mark doesn’t care about the Santa book I’m holding and the great speech I had prepared. Hopefully, I will have more success with the heart-to-heart mother-to-son conversation we will have one day about where babies come from.

There, I have just added an item to my never-ending “mother worries list.”

This year, I am terrified by the prospect of screwing up Christmas.

The evening we were scrambling to find a few accessories for Mark’s Halloween costume, there wasn’t much left since employees were already busy stocking Christmas-themed products. “Already?” I commented, surprised. It wasn’t even November yet!

Earlier this week, most stores started to play that syrupy background music about Santa, Christmas and Rudolph. There are shelves and shelves of chocolate boxes, advent calendars and toys in every store, and large Christmas trees in malls.

This time of the year is coming, whether I like it or not. I can’t close my eyes and pretend it’s not there—this is the most important holiday of the year in North America, in terms of marketing at least.

What kind of person doesn’t feel cheerful when the holiday season is around the corner?

That was me, raising my hand.

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas. I loved it as a kid, of course, but as an adult, I don’t really celebrate. And of course, Feng didn’t grow up with Christmas traditions. “We will do Christmas better when we have a kid,” we had always said.

Well, we have that kid now, the ultimate Christmas-celebrating motivation. But the holiday season scares me more than ever.

I don’t remember believing in Santa Claus, but I recalled very clearly the day when, at the age of five, I told my grandmother: “I know Santa isn’t real, you know. But please, don’t tell mom and dad, they aren’t ready for the truth.”

Yet, my childhood Christmas holidays were pretty awesome. It was all about family gatherings, eating, celebrating, and getting annoyed with each other. Christmas wasn’t Christmas if my grandmother wasn’t threatening to go on a cooking strike, if my aunt wasn’t buying tons of food and expecting others to cook it for her, if my dad wasn’t misplacing the presents, if my cousins weren’t fighting about the latest gizmos if my grandfather wasn’t giving his “back in my days we were happy to have rocks and maybe one marble as a gift” speech (blatant lie, by the way, his family was well off).

But here, in Canada, I don’t have my loud, annoying and loving family around. It’s just the three of us, Feng, Mark and I. And as the designated Westerner of the family, devising Christmas traditions is my job.

Except that I don’t want to be in charge. At Christmastime, I want to be a little girl again. Oh, I’m happy to help out, but I want someone else to do the magic.

It’s hard to “create” a Christmas spirit. I don’t know where to start. Certainly not with the religious aspect of the holiday, considering we are atheists. I would gladly incorporate Jesus into my yet-to-be-created traditions, but I know more about Jesús, the clerk at the Latino grocery store, than baby Jesus.

We aren’t very materialistic and Mark doesn’t care that much about toys yet. He has a few he really plays with (Duplo are the latest thing) but he doesn’t throw tantrums asking for more.

The main problem is that I see Christmas as a big family reunion, and I’m having a hard time with the fact that we are just a family of three. Around this time of the year, I wish the house was full of kids—ahem… for a day or two, that is, this is why I don’t have twenty kids of my own already.

I have to come up with a plan. Else… we will take Saint Mark and his passion for worship places to visit churches around Ottawa!

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  1. Martin Penwald December 12, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    You misspell Winter solstice in your article 🙂

    Don’t worry, you can’t screw up if there is no expectation from Mark. The evening of the 21st, either cook or buy a special meal with something Mark loves, with a few candles, and watch a movie (let’s say a classical Disney, with all the marshmallow feelings to fit this time of the year tone).

    1. Zhu December 14, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      Will try, but: candles and Mark don’t mix, he doesn’t like Disney characters and his favourite meal is the McDonalds four-piece nuggets (with boiled carrots I add because I feel guilty, again).

  2. CL December 13, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    how about celebrating winter solstice (tong zhi) the chinese way, cook some tang yuan on 21/22 Dec, not sure which day .. perhaps your hubs will appreciate it ..

    1. Zhu December 14, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      Good idea! I love tang yuan too, and it’s not hard to prepare. 🙂

  3. Shannon December 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    You could maybe start a tradition of making Christmas cookies or a certain type of dessert? You could do it as a family or just with Mark. That was one of my favorite parts of holidays back home. Making something special for that holiday and “helping” my mom… until I could actually help her.

    1. Zhu December 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      Good idea, thank you for the feedback! For now, his main task is adding salt and pepper in dishes. He loves it. Haven’t tried baking yet because, well, I don’t really bake, but why not?

  4. Lynn December 15, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Hee! Had to laugh at your comment about knowing Jesus the grocery store clerk better than the real thing. SNORT.

    My advice: keep it small and simple. It is so easy to add things in the years to come. But you will be surprised how fast something you do once becomes a tradition that the kids expect every year. Maybe McDonalds on Christmas eve and a few gifts Christmas morning is enough for this year – you can always add crafts and trips to visit Santa and a fancy tree in the years to come when Mark cares more, and you see what you have energy for.

    And if it’s just not feeling Christmassy enough – I’d say, get out of the house. Especially on Christmas day – go sledding, go for a skate downtown on the Rink of Dreams, go to the movies even. Be around other people – it just feels more festive. Have a great holiday!

    1. Zhu December 15, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      These are great ideas, thank you for your wisdom.

      Have you met Jesus as well? 😉

  5. Lexie December 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Cette année, comme nous avons déménagé en décembre, nous n’avons mis aucune décoration. Nous partons vendredi pour la France et j’ai demandé à ma mère de ne pas décorer complètement le sapin pour que notre fille puisse accrocher une ou deux boules. Si on avait été à la maison, j’aurais cuisiné qq chose d’odorant, avec de la cannelle ou du chocolat, on aurait installé ensemble des décorations faciles à mettre, comme les chaussettes ou des espèces de peluches lutins achetées chez Dollarama et j’aurais mis le CD de Noel de Diana Krall. J’aurais pas fait forcément de la dinde, j’aurais fait qq chose qu’on aurait pu manger avec les doigts parce que c’est ça la fête pour elle. S’il adore le macdo tu peux peut etre faire une espece de mac do maison. Des petits morceaux de poulets trempés dans la chapelure (Mark pourrait le faire) , des pommes frites…

    1. Zhu December 16, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      Bonne idée, ça, le McDo maison! Effectivement, il adoooore McDo, des fois il ne veut même pas y manger, mais juste rentrer dedans et faire le tour 😆

      Nous aussi on avait fait un Noël français l’année dernière. Pas cette fois, billets trops chers…

  6. Christiane December 17, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Even as a Christian, i am not a huge fan of Christmas. Even as a new mom. You are not alone ! My husband is not religious and he looooves Christmas. Go figures !
    I like the idea of keeping things simple and creating your own family tradition. Either baking/cooking French and/or Chinese treats on Christmas Day or going out to visit churches. Whatever you want to do 🙂

    1. Zhu December 17, 2014 at 10:35 pm

      We will figure something out. Not sure what yet, though!

  7. Holly Hollyson December 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I know, usually I have a huge christmas and this year not so much! I would love billions of children. Jus for Christmas. I remember clearly the day I matched my Mom’s handwriting to Santa’s at 9 years old!

    1. Zhu December 18, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Can I… lend you Mark for a few hours? 😉

      1. Holly Hollyson December 19, 2014 at 9:05 am

        Yes please!!! Just for Christmas right?!

        1. Zhu December 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm

          Christmas and major Canadian holidays 😆

          1. Holly December 21, 2014 at 7:34 pm

            But not New Year ok?!

          2. Zhu December 23, 2014 at 10:30 pm

            Tsk tsk… already changing your mind… 😆

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