Tim Ulmer, a former staffer for Illinois House Republicans (where I met him) taught English in China for a year.
He has written a book on the experience, which is not yet published.
McHenry County Blog is going to serialize the chapter on his experience at Christmas.
Here is the next installment:
A Chinese Christmas Carol, continued
It was amusing when a middle-school principal named Bruce asked me to sing a Christmas song for them, and the others eagerly shared his request.
My friends in America had warned me not to sing because the screech could start World War III.
Bruce shared his frustration that he’d been hearing Christmas songs on the street speakers, but they were sung in English and too fast for him to understand the lyrics.
Others had the same complaint, and a couple of women grinned like little girls, wanting me to tell them what my favorite Christmas memories were.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that,” I said.
It broke my heart to tell them that.
“It’s in my contract that I can’t discuss anything about religion with NENU students, staff or faculty.”
Learning that my speech was limited by such a contractual stipulation was a surprise to everyone, and that shocked me, because I’d assumed that something like that would’ve been in any contracts they’d signed.
That’s when they explained that they thought Christmas was a secular holiday, primarily a celebration for children who would be given gifts and toys by adults.
Most knew about Halloween, and they naturally thought that Christmas was comparable to it because all of the commercials they saw were always about kids getting toys and having parties.
The only Christmas programs anyone was familiar with were translations of our popular Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, neither of which had anything to do with religion.
Even though Bruce seemed to know the answer of the question he was about to ask, he did so anyway, “It is Christian?”
Silence fell upon everyone in that room with the force of a boulder, and words aren’t adequate to describe what happened next!
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