Grinchmas

Recently, there has been speculation that I might be a (the?) Christmas Grinch. Around this time each year, I sound more like a grumpy old man than a 35 year old woman, so I can see how this might be general public opinion. I would argue that there are only so many times you can listen to Mariah screech ‘All I want for Christmas’ at the top of her lungs before anyone’s Christmas spirit breaks. For me, that threshold just happens to be 0.3 seconds into the opening chord. So you can imagine my joy now that she has been on repeat in our office for two weeks straight.

grinch-square

I partially blame growing up in Australia for my lack of Christmas spirit. When you spend your youth watching Christmas movies like Home Alone, you can’t help but feel jibbed when the festive season rolls around each year. Pop culture promised me ugly woolly jumpers, sled rides in the snow and stockings hung by the fire for Christmas. Instead I’ve had years of roasting in the sweltering heat, standing in front of a fan on Christmas Day…too hot to put on pants, let alone conjure my inner festive spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, once upon a time I loved Christmas. As a kid, my Christmases were spent with my siblings and cousins…clad in swimmers, eating watermelon and hurling ourselves down the Slip ‘N Slide for hours on end. Even the inevitable yearly gift of Val’s Towels from our great aunt couldn’t deter me from the enjoyment of the festive season. A beloved yearly tradition of new board games and epic rollerblading sessions punctuated the Christmases of my childhood…but then we all grew up and rollerblading became seriously uncool.

I’ve come to the conclusion that adult Christmases a pretty ordinary, unless alcohol or inappropriate gift giving is involved. The most memorable Christmases I’ve experienced in recent history are those spent with fellow sans-family-nomadic-friends, pooling together our resources to survive the day (see previous note regarding alcohol). Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like a group of 20-something year olds willing to lose a limb over a Lego Yoda, gifted in the Dirty Secret Santa exchange.

patrick-square

I’m not all doom and gloom when it comes to the festive season. Where my Christmas spirit rockets off the Rudolph scale is in the gift giving/wrapping and general decoration department. Unsurprising really, given my love of *coughobsessionwith* all things paper. While I’m not bothered about the receiving of gifts, I love giving to others…and nothing brings me more happiness than the words ‘Oh, but it’s too pretty to unwrap!’

1620564_899711980081269_4769932036081667171_n

The arrival of my nephew two years ago has reinforced my theory that children are the secret ingredient to enjoying Christmas. Kids love all things Christmas with unbridled enthusiasm and the true spirit of the season…it’s enough to infect even the most severe of Grinches. I mean, how could I not laugh when my nephew excitedly chewed a hole right through the Christmas ornament he made during our last Skype chat?! He’s made my Christmas already, even from the other side of the world.

So what if I detest carols, Christmas pudding or the swarms of frenzied shoppers at this time of year? I enjoy Christmas in my own Grinch-like way. I still watch Home Alone every year (I’m told Die Hard will be added to the viewing list this year), adore gift giving and dedicating hours to the design of a Christmas tree. As this Christmas is being spent back in the northern hemisphere, I also have the promise of snow to look forward to. Who knows, maybe one Grinchmas soon I’ll even take up rollerblading again?

tree-collage

 

Who Cares if They’re Naughty or Nice?

Three weeks before Christmas, I initiated an ‘English Christmas Challenge’ for my students. The concept was simple…if they wrote me a Christmas story or letter in English, I would write them a reply and give them a small present in return. The only rules were that they had to write a minimum of three sentences and they could only receive two presents…any letters after that were purely for the joy of corresponding with me in English (ha).

Two days and 20 letters into the challenge, the teachers started calling me ‘Santa’ as I wandered the halls giving out presents from my Christmas stocking (it’s all about the theatrics…not the hundred yen gifts). With a total of 434 students, I started to wonder…had I bitten off more than I could chew? Come the end of semester, was I going to end up with carpal tunnel from hours of writing replies? Would I be rocking myself in the fetal position having nightmares about the 2nd year boys trying to pillage my stocking?!

I came to realise that children can be bought (quite cheaply apparently) and by the end of the challenge I had received 164 letters in total. I had been Santa to these kids and received letters from all kinds of students. From the ones who can write English in their sleep to the ones who still can’t spell their own names after three years of study. From the kid who never opens his English textbook in class, to the cute little 1st year girl who writes to me every week. The letters and the students who wrote them were many and varied, but in the end I realised… who cares if they’re naughty or nice? As long as they use English…

There were the cute letters with declarations of adoration and love…

There were the comments/pictures regarding my appearance…

There were letters about music (good and bad)…

There were the students channeling Yoda into their writing…

There were the sweet talkers (who were clearly only in it for one thing)…

Then there were the unexpected presents. Some cute…

And some not so cute (a picture of Arashi and a scrunchie)…

And some just weird…like ear buds these pellets that expanded in water?!

There were the letters to make me laugh…

There were the letters containing Engrish…

Oh and then there were the letters from the Gods…

And lastly, there were the hand made Christmas cards from my special needs students…

The experience was possibly more entertaining for me than the students but nonetheless, it got them reading, writing, listening and speaking English more than they would on a usual day.

While I am secretly glad I don’t have 20+ students writing to me every day, I was happy to receive these cards in the mail over winter break and know that at least some of the kids will continue writing for the joy of an English exchange with me…even now that the presents have dried up and Santa has retired…