There’s a tradition to setting up a Christmas tree that I still haven’t quite mastered here in Beijing. When I was a kid, it consisted of eggnog all around, a crackling fire in the fireplace, Christmas music on the stereo, and the whole family present to pull out the artificial tree and open the boxes of ornaments, methodically assembling and placing until the final moment when it was all finished and we could turn on the Christmas lights.
The kids and I finally got the tree up this week, my husband was busy with work, and I tried not to be disappointed by the process. For one thing, our tree is small. Secondly, we don’t have many ornaments. The kids aren’t very old so they simply haven’t accumulated. What’s more, there was no eggnog for the process despite my commitment to learn how to make it once and for all this year. I was cradling a hot water, of course.
I discovered, though, that a Beijing Christmas tree “raising” can be its own thing too. For instance, it was the kind of night for a Sherpa delivery. I used a chopstick to serve as a new spine for the broken star at the top of the tree. The Christmas music on my laptop was paused for a WeChat video call with my Chinese father-in-law who had never seen a Christmas tree assembled. And, with the tunes resumed, I noticed the air filters were humming in the same key as the song.
Maybe it’s time to re-write the traditions to suit the geography!
Photos: Ember Swift