This Christmas was a first for a lot of things. This was my first Christmas without my family. My first Christmas not to go to Church. My first Christmas not to be cold. My first Christmas out of the country. Well let's be real this was my first Christmas not in Memphis, TN. I have spent the last 23 years doing more or less the exact same thing for Christmas.
Christmas day, wake up (the people in the house has dwindled down in the years...now it is just me and my lovely mother and father--those no count siblings had to up and leave their baby sister). We scurry around, argue, clean the kitchen, pack and then rush out the door to make it to the Newsom's side by 1pm--which always always ends up being 2-3pm and everyone is a bit frustrated, hungry and full of teasing-Christmas cheer.
Then we feast. This is something that has changed--but no matter what, where or how we manage to sit, eat and drink. Post lunch, we exchange presents. This also has developed and changed over the years. Back in the day Nanny's blue couch was piled high with red stockings stuff full of amazing treats and gadgets--my favorite part of Christmas Day.
Then comes the photo, some years we get one, some years we don't. But, thanks to Uncle Bill we most definitely have had a Newsom Family photo the past 5 years. Then the dishes. When we were all still at St. Nick, many a year we dressed in aprons and hats and passed the fine china from hand to hand until everything was put up and away (and many a years it was just Mom & Sondra...)
The rest of the evening has always changed. Some years a game of spoons, others glued to the TV watching A Christmas story over and over again, others Love Actually and way back in the day back handsprings and cartwheels in the front yard.
Then we sleep and wake and do it all over again. This time we head to Grandma and Granddaddy's for the Wills Family version. This has changed over the years too. A few years back we took home our stockings, started an adult gift exchange (in my mind I'm still too young to be apart of that..) We switched from gifts to baked goods and back to gifts and then back again. Things are always changing.
But some things stay the same: the table get it's extra leafs and we file in sitting in our same seats each year (some due to blind eyes others due to habit) and for the past 4 to 5 years our elbows slightly stick to the table as we collapse into our hands after ice cream and fudge sauce. We have eaten everything from fish tacos to BBQ to Christmas spaghetti. Some years there has been homemade eggnog and others gluten free, dairy free (or whatever the allergy of the year maybe) options.
Even though some years didn't end this way--in my mind the Wills family Christmas always ends in the basement: ping pong, pool, air hockey and broken ceiling tiles. Laughing and playing--then suddenly frozen into shock as the room becomes pitch black. "Helpppp" we all shriek. We wait, our eyes adjust and then just as soon as the lights dimmed, they flicker back on again.
Christmas with family is always full of surprises, fights, laughter, exhaustion and a few tears. But, nothing comes anywhere close to how wonderful our family traditions have become over the years. This year will go down in history as the most bizarre and elaborate Christmas for sure, but it's got nothing on the Wills/Newsom gang.
The day started with an early morning run, because I knew there was no way I would have any time after school. Since our director would be out of town our school decided they had the authority to change Christmas day to December 24th. So we arrive to school decked out in our Christmas gear. Money has been a bit tight this past month, because we had to pay back a few debts (we get paid today so no worries!), but point being we didn't have a lot of extra cash for red&green Christmas attire. So I got creative! I wore a white & black striped shirt and a black shirt and green earrings made out of Christmas bows and a red ribbon in my hair. Of course right as I walked through the door my coordinator says "OH NO, black not a good color for today." UGH what a sour way to start the day. I just smiled and said, "Merry Christmas" with a big smile plastered on my face.
The day continues and the kids are running wild--dress in anything red and green they could find at home. Some in full Santa costumes others in angry bird, hello kity, spiderman or whatever else happened to be red in the closet (spiderman and santa--same same, but different..ha). So flag proceeds as normal except instead of a uniformed student a Santa dressed student raises the Thai flag and wais to Buddha.
We finish flag with Joy to the World and a random preacher shows up and reads an except from the Bible in Thai--I think that is what happened at least but I'm not sure. Then we have poppers, but we pop them at the wrong time and then the director and a few students cut a ribbon that leads into Winter Wonderland: a completely decked out stage set complete with life size igloo, sleigh, snow, polar beers, santa and reindeer. It was quite the scene.
Flag comes to a conclusion and the beauty contest starts. Within minutes one of the kindergarten students throws up on another student and everyone is running around in a tizzy. Mops, towels or cleaning supplies aren't things found in surplus here in Thailand. So some one comes out with tiny box of Kleenex and they wipe up the stage, but don't stop the show for a second. Half the teachers and students are making gagging noises, but thankfully a chain reaction did not start...I was worried there for a bit.
Then we have the dances and the presentations. Pre-K and kindergarten have 3 students from each class (3 classes in each) that dress as Santa, Santee, Reindeer and Angel. They are dressed to impress. They saunter on stage and say their robotic spiel for the judges: "Good Morning. My name is _____. I am in K1/___. I am 4 years old. I am _____ (Santa/Santee/Angel/Reindeer)." Then of course this must be a competition so there are judges and winners.
Then comes the forced dancing portion. Parents are literally mauling the stage with ipads, video cameras and elbows that cut like knifes if you get in front of their view. They jump in at any moment if their kid's hat happens to tilt to the wrong side. The funny thing is that the kids don't look like they are having any fun. The parents barely clap when finished, but pictures galore are snapped at every other moment. As long as their hat stays in place and their make-up isn't smudged the day is considered quite the success.
Then we venture into the classrooms, were parents have out done themselves. They have brought more food than you could ever imagine. Fruits, vegetables, dumplings, pizza, KFC, donuts, boxes and boxes of cakes and cookies, vats of ice cream. This parties put American Christmas parties to shame. I bopped from one room to the other checking out the food selection, but then become entranced by Teacher Som's Mask party. I have no idea why, but each student brought in a mask and suddenly they all changed clothes and they now have on princess type clothing and the masquerade started. We paraded around the school and once again take more photos.
Then back to the classroom for the gift exchange and the Thai version of Rockin around the Xmas Tree. This is where Gangman style starts to blare (it as already been blasting from the second floor--3-5 grade classrooms for a few hours now) and we dance around the tree and play a version of musical chairs.
For my students the party comes to an end with a gift exchange. They then passed out in their Santa suits and sleep the rest of the day. But, for 1st-6th grade the party continues for the remainder of the day. Every single classroom had Gangman style on repeat and they danced, their bodies possessed by sugar.
Now that is just the description of the day before Christmas. If you can only imagine, the festivities have continued throughout the week and last night was the teacher New Years Party. The party requires a whole post on its own. We decided that if you aren't okay with getting on stage to sing karaoke and/or wearing a full face of make up--you will not survive in this country.