30 January 2019
“Please tell us about Christmas.” The universal request from the young college students in China in the early ’90’s. I had no problem doing that.
I soon developed a whole Christmas celebration. There were several steps to go through.
September, beginning of the school year, present my plan to my supervisor for approval, with the proviso that none of it would be divulged to the students. In this plan I stated all preparations and activities. I also insisted that I needed at least one school official to take part too. Usually this job was assigned to my supervisor. This was my insurance policy so that I would not get indefensible allegations against myself.
Next, in October begin to use a few minutes every lesson to learn the Christmas carols I had chosen. These were some verses fromSilent Night, Hark the Herald Angels, O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World and then finished with We Wish You a Marry Christmas. These fitted the Christmas story so well.
Come early December the students were getting quite eager to hear about Christmas, so I told them that the last lesson before the 25th would be about Christmas. After some discussion about the practicality of present giving, we settled on ‘everyone bring one present and everyone get one present.’ Boundaries were set for value and instructions that it must be wrapped.
I would choose one student with good English pronunciation and that student would read a simplified version of the Christmas story according to the gospel of Luke. Whereas Luke says, “Caesar wanted to hold a census,” we modified it to, “the emperor wanted to count his people.” Same meaning, simpler English. In the mean time I would go out to get some sweets in the market and crepe paper to wrap them in.
Each student was then given an invitation with an RSVP slip, on which their name was to be written in the Roman Alphabet. I would take all those slips and use them to label each bundle of sweets that I had wrapped.
The day before the celebration the nominated room would be decorated by the students, with me as supervisor. Then in the week before Christmas we would have the celebration on a suitable early evening. I had asked the school for, and usually received, a small bottle of drink for each student.
The students would turn up before seven o’clock, and at seven the door was closed. No more to enter.
All this preparation had built up so much anticipation, that when the students came in, with their best clothes that would keep them warm, they were very excited. The tables in the room were placed so that about six to eight students could sit around them. This facilitated discussion, and as it was all to be English, it was an amazing learning opportunity.
Of course the school official attending would have gone through all these steps too. It was time to start the show. (to be continued).