I’ve lead a charmed life of never having to work during the holidays.
I mean, I’m not some soulless, work obsessed lawyer or business person from a cheesy Christmas movie, calling home saying, “Sorry honey, but I just won’t be able to make it…..yes, I know it’s Christmas Eve..”and then by the end of the movie, I see the beauty in living each day with the ones I love and I tell off my boss in front of a lot of important clients in a monologue set over swelling orchestra music…
No, no, work has never been something that has threatened to interfere with my holiday plans or been on the cusp of capturing this soul of mine. That is, until I sold my soul to a school, which includes the phrase “You will be expected to work on Christmas” in it’s contract.
I figured they couldn’t be serious. I nodded my head in agreement and signed the contract, thinking, “They couldn’t possibly…only Satan would enforce such a thing. Besides, I can just cite religious reasons and bawl my eyes out saying that I need Christmas Day off to celebrate My Lord And Savior Of All Human Race’s birthday because I need to do communion and slaughter three goats or something (aka I need to be in my pajamas all day, eating peppermint infused treats, opening gifts, and watching It’s A Wonderful Life: a true religious experience). They don’t know Western culture, right?
Right. They don’t exactly know Western culture, as proven by our school focusing on decorating the place with Disney characters, having a Disney parade (where I had to dress up in a Tigger costume and dance for parents and students. It was like what I imagine being on acid to be like, if it went really wrong and you hated everything) and making teachers compete in a tree decorating contest for money because the meaning of Christmas is big corporations and competitions for money?
Oh wait, maybe they DO understand Western culture… or at least, it’s total and utter decline into mindless consumerism. Soon enough, they’ll be having Black Friday in Taiwanese malls…
There was no changing my school’s mind and I accepted my fate of having to work on Christmas while all my friend’s back home posted pictures of playing in snow and spending time with their families. Christmas Eve came.. I baked Nutella Sea Salt cookies at a friend’s place, listened to Christmas music, and was feeling pretty cheery as I wrote my 1st grade students letters from “Santa” telling one troublesome student, “Come visit me and Iron Man at the North Pole!” because really, Santa is a mere afterthought for them and the real celebrity/motivation for good behavior for young Taiwanese kids these days is Mr. Tony Stark. I went to bed and set my alarm for work the next morning and had a sad thought that this might be the first Christmas Eve I’d ever spent alone…
I woke up thinking I should dress a bit like Santa and so I wore my red pants, gray sweater with a black belt, and black boots. I was feeling happy, even though I was off to work, because damnit, it was my favorite holiday and I was going to make this work. I got into my classroom, as the sweet, little munchkins were arriving and we all screamed “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!” to each other. They were all buzzing with excitement and it really made my day. I handed out their letter from Santa along with a cookie from me. Some of the wise ass boys pointed out that all the letters had the same handwriting, so I must have written them, to which I responded,
A few of the girls and boys were delighted with the kind words from Santa and kept having me read it to them, while they smiled happily on being praised on their classroom behavior by some bearded old man. We then opened presents from their parents, which was adorable to see how happy they were with their Hello Kitty dolls and Lego sets. One of my favorites, a tiny boy with big, doe eyes, showed me a box of….well, I don’t want to call it crap, but it looked like his parents went to a craft store, covered themselves in velcro and just smashed around in the aisles, deciding to buy whatever stuck to them. There were big, poofy, heart stickers, and weird twisty flower pieces probably meant to be sewn onto a straw hat. Yet, he LOVED IT and could hardly contain his joy as he showed me all that useless but perhaps well-meaning…crap…This moment is why he’s one of my favorites. Always such a positive and happy boy, I hope to god nothing ever changes that.
We then watched Mickey and Minnie’s Christmas cartoons, sang Christmas carols together, and made a Christmas tree craft. I realized I didn’t mind being at work on Christmas because I was having so much fun with my students who are like a strange, forced upon me, family. My co-teacher always tells them, when they are fighting with each other or bullying, as kids can be prone to do, “we are a family and we love each other.” It really did feel like I was with family that day and I’m just lucky that I have a job that allows me to do fun Christmas activities with my students and be able to call it work.
Charmed life, indeed.