Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Between Holidays

Between Christmas and New Year, a friend taught me a marvelous German word to describe the said period, Zwischenjahreszeit, which meant the time between those two major holidays, two important if not the most predominant landmarks on calendar, in the predominant Christian regions and countries, in one of which, the USA, I have lived more than half of my life, just surpassed the time I had spent in my native land, China, in which, incidentally people are observing Christmas, as one of the "Hallmark Holidays".  To be more precise, it was the Christmas Eve they observe in China, known as "Peaceful Night", or "Silent Night", apparently after the Christmas carol "Silent Night" by Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), and was utterly devoid of any religious context.  It was quite disorienting to hear that numerous young people roamed about in the chilly streets and raided brightly-lit and thematically decorated department stores in China, jousting amongst the thickets of red Santa Claus, aka Papa Christmas (Christmas Old Man), and green Christmas trees.

Having left the secular Communist China early, I had completely missed that ungodly spectacle in China; while living in the US, with a Jewish partner, I still haven't gained personal connection to Christmas, one of the most important holidays on the calendar, and I equally have lost the connection to the most important holiday in China, the Spring Festival, more widely known in the US as the Chinese New Year.  I do still observe it, mostly with an obligatory meal centering on handmade dumplings, but I have skipped the excitement and anxiety during the Zwischenjahreszeit in China, between New Year and the Spring Festival. 

Therefore, instead of being tween seasons, I am in the no man's land, cultural wise.  I think it would be proper to call my state of being as Zwischenkulturen, with occasional excursion into the depth of those regions, even concurrently, such as the only two times I tried to visit a Christian/Catholic churches during Christmas time were when I was in China, in my college years.

In Dalian, a commercial harbor and sister city of Oakland, California, during a Christmas Eve, my friends and I tried to crash a service in a small parish church but were turned away.  At the same time, a shadowy old woman approached me, apparently having heard me of desiring for a copy of the Bible, hinting at that if I had visited the church more often, and gained their confidence, they would give me a copy of the Bible, which was and is not allowed to be openly sold or given away in China. I was rather put off by her air of mystery and didn't go back to the church.

Despite the obvious nervousness my sister felt when I let her know of our visit to the church, sans the fact of the Bible offering, she, being two years older and had been subjected to brain washing more, surprised me one or two years later, agreeing to try to enter a large cathedral in Shenyang on Christmas Eve.  The courtyard of the basilica was packed and we barely had spots to view the solemn procession, fitted with mitre, robes, incense, simultaneously spiritual and pompous.  And that marked the end of my church visit career during Christmas seasons.

A marginalized presence is a double-edged sword.  Being a loner, I don't feel too awfully excluded by such disconnection, and even appreciate the solitary time necessary for me to work on my paintings and drawings, without worrying about which department stores to raid in order to secure the right gifts against a long list; but time to time, an inevitable sense of alienation still set in, causing my holiday blues. I have benefited from my duel-cultural background tremendously, therefore, I shall not complain.

Yet, it is time to gear up for the high holiday in China and here it is time to take down the Christmas trees.  

IMG_7629 - Winter in Shenyang, China, February 2010

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