Piggy-backing on yesterday's theme I thought I'd cover celebrating Christmas in non-Christian countries. It is one of my favorite things to do. I once watched a nativity play from my hotel balcony in Saigon while drinking Russian 'champaign' with a screw top. The whole country was aflutter with pink plastic Christmas trees. You'd see whole families on a moped and the Christmas tree squeezed between them all.
I once participated in a Christmas egg hunt at midnight in Bali. They smooshed quite a few Christian holidays into that one fabulous night. First came the whole roasted suckling pig that spent the entire day on a spit in the middle of the hotel and then the big hunt followed. And yes, for those wondering - the eggs were dyed red and green. My boyfriend at the time, (current ex-husband) and I won the grand prize, a mother of pearl desk top pen holder with the hotel's name on it: Tinarella. When we went back with the girls for The Little Travelers the hotel was still there but under different management.
In Japan people stand in line for hours at KFC for some greasy chicken and enjoy Christmas cake afterwards, which is a birthday cake complete with candles (random amount) decorated in Christmas colors. They do this because it is "American style." All of my poor students were crushed when I told them I didn't know of a single person who has ever eaten KFC on Christmas! Nor made a birthday cake with red and green frosting and put candles on it. When I asked them who is supposed to blow out the candles, they always went blank? "Anyone, it doesn't matter." Then I would try to explain about how it's Jesus' birthday- so I was just wondering who blows them out and their expressions would grow more and more confused.
And then there are the Christmas ornaments in Japan. My favorite would have to be Santa on the crucifix. I often wonder if this is how Buddhists view things like Target's line of Buddha candle holders or all the little home decor trinkets with Chinese characters on them. Most of the ones I see I do not recognize and have no idea what they say, but they look 'zen'- a very misunderstood word in our culture. The other day I heart a designer on HGTV say, "It's a very Bali/Zen look." Interesting choice of words for a stucco fish pond with a Buddha at the end. Bali is a Hindu island in a Muslim country and Zen is a sect of Buddhism. Neither culture does much with stucco. But, OK! All this pickyness over words- I actually love the cross breeding of cultures and love seeing it all jumbled up because to me it reflects the unimportance of the small stuff. I mean, ignorance has been an excusable American trait for quite some time and sometimes I suppose it's kind of nice to see we're not alone.