Merry Christmas! 圣诞节快乐! (sheng dan jie kuaile)

JISHOU, HUNAN — Our college’s annual Christmas extravaganza has been put to bed, this year featuring more dances than I can ever recall. Even we teachers danced. (Video may be forthcoming).

We foreign teachers (all five of us) had dinner with the president of the university, the v.p., and the deans of our colleges. Unless my memory is faulty, this was the first time the president has joined us. The food was delicious and ample — quite suitable for a Christmas dinner.

I have received about a bushel of apples today (OK, really just a half dozen apples), because the Chinese have acquired the custom of giving an apple on Christmas Eve. If I’m not mistaken, this is an English custom.

And just now I was on a video chat with five former students, including one in Thailand. They all graduated in June. Another guy called me from Shanghai. (I think he was a little drunk.) A gazillion people sent me messages on QQ tonight.

One friend has promised me a handmade scarf, but was profusely apologetic for it not being on time or in my favorite color, and being so simple. I told her it makes no difference, because the most important thing is the love behind the gift. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Faith, hope and love — but the greatest of these is love. Paul at least got that part right.

May you all have a wonderful holiday. (If you don’t celebrate Christmas — apply my wishes liberally to a festival of your choice.)

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