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Ever hear of a ‘Chinese Gift Exchange’?

Well, there’s nothing Chinese about it

I meant to write this a while ago, but nothing seems to get done when it should this time of year. Body and mind go into some sort of holiday hibernation. A biological yuletide alarm clock goes off, telling you to take a break. And, of course, you go along with it: “I made it through another year. I deserve a break. It is the holidays, after all.” This is what happened to me — and nothing could be more absurd.

I live in a city that has all of the holiday fixings, but none of the holiday feelings (no matter what Xinhua would have us think). I am not a student, therefore no winter break. I am not technically employed, therefore no expectation of holiday vacation time. And, perhaps what makes my little holiday hiatus most preposterous, is what I did in the months leading up to now — I traveled. Yeah, sure, I deserve a break. I’m sure all of you who have been tied to a desk all year would agree.

Perhaps some of my mental malaise can be attributed to a mild state of depression, a feeling that I imagine afflicts many foreigners in China this time of year. Another holiday overseas, far from home, away from family and friends. So we try to fake it here, filling our days and nights with as much approximated holiday cheer as possible. Bliss and I began that ritual with a holiday party a week before Christmas, two days before Bliss boarded a plane headed for Georgia.

The highlight of the evening was a “Chinese” gift exchange, a practice, we learned, that has no Chinese qualities whatsoever.

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12.28.2004, 4:15 PM · Diary, Observations · Comments (5)

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Shanghai Diaries is a website about Shanghai, China ... and lots of other stuff. Voted Best Mainland China Blog in the 2004 Asia Blog Awards.

Editor: Dan Washburn

Related: Shanghaiist and Mudan Boutique

Dan is a freelance writer living in Shanghai. More about Dan.

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