Christmas in Hankow, China, 1925

“What I liked best about Christmas was that for a whole day grown-ups seemed to agree to take time of from being grown-ups. At six-thirty sharp when I burst into my parents’ room, yelling, ‘Merry Christmas!,’ they both laughed and jumped right up as if six-thirty wasn’t an early hour at all. By the time we came downstairs, the servants were lined up in the hall dressed in their best. ‘Gung-shi.’ They bowed. ‘Gung-shi. Gung-shi.’ This was the way Chinese offered congratulations on special occasions, and the greeting, as it was repeated, sounded like little bells tinkling.

Lin Nai-Nai, however, didn’t ‘gung-shi.’ For months she had been waiting for this day. She stepped forward. ‘Merry Christmas,’ she said just as if she could have said anything in English that she wanted to. I was so proud. I took her hand as we trooped into the living room. My father lighted the tree and he distributed the first gifts of the day—red envelopes filled with money for the servants. After a flurry of more ‘gung-shis,’ the servants left and there were the three of us in front of a huge mound of packages. All mysteries.” ~Homesick by Jean Fritz

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