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2006 Christmas Message

This year, my travels have taken me to China where Christmas is not a national holiday, but is nevertheless often celebrated by the giving of apples on Christmas Eve.

Christmas is a time of giving, of sharing, of family and of love. A time that we in the west celebrate with self satisfied pride because for a few days we live within a spirit of giving. Many who call themselves Christians look upon those of other beliefs and different values with distain. I know many who feel that the Chinese people are lacking something because they do not celebrate Christmas. However, the spirit of giving, sharing, family and love is a way of life for the Chinese people I have met, not a spirit to labelled and brought out once a year.

This is just one of many misconceptions about China and the Chinese people. Many have said to me that they would like to come to China but they are concerned about the food. However, the food in China is delicious and very healthy because it is not full of additives and chemicals like food in the west. Growing up in Australia I am used to eating fine seafood, and so I was very surprised when I discovered that seafood in China was the most delicious I have ever eaten.

The Chinese people are so warm and supportive of their family and friends that they do not have time to feel sorry for themselves because their potential bad memories, even of minor incidents are immediately replaced with positive experiences and warm, loving memories. When one young man damaged his ankle playing sport, his friends took him for medical assistance which is not unusual in itself, but as he received treatment, his friends stood around him to offer comfort and support. One cradled his head, another held his hand. The bad memory of hurting his ankle was automatically replaced with the love from his team mates. It is hard to imagine a group of 20 year old sportsman in the west openly giving so much love to their team mate. The incident is not unusual, it is a way of life for these caring people.

Chinese wages are generally very low, but so is the Chinese cost of living. Delicious and healthy food is readily available and clothing is inexpensive. It is true that they do not have money to waste, and many things that we would buy are considered to be ‘not necessary’ or ‘not useful’. I have often been taken to dinner to ‘expensive’ restaurants which have cost my new friends a week’s wages, and they are seeking nothing beyond my friendship. How many of us in the west would spend even a day’s wages to buy a stranger a meal for no reason other than having a new friend?

I know that is generally considered that China could learn much from the west, but there are things that the west can learn from China too. It is not unusual for Chinese people to work 12 hours a day, 7 days week and they do so happily, smiling from the beginning of their day until the end. One cannot help but notice the contrast with the west where many are miserable because the must work 8 hours a day for 5 days. In fact, the capacity of the Chinese people to draw pleasure from every situation is a lesson to us all, as is their ability to turn adversity into joy through their love.

My Christmas will be very different for me this year, but in so many ways everyday is Christmas living amongst these warm and loving people.

Merry Christmas

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