• Alexandra Sieh / Courtesy

    High air pollution in Beijing wasn't the white Christmas Alexandra Sieh was hoping for.

  • Alexandra Sieh / Courtesy

    Santa has been the star decoration in China for the holidays.



For weeks, I insisted my Christmas-obsessed pal limit herself to one carol a week. The Chinese halls were decked in multicolored snowflakes and government-approved Santa faces. Hark, the cafes’ loud speakers rang with “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Feliz Navidad.”

It was enough to make me insane.

The madness continued during a weekend getaway to Hong Kong. Beers in hand, my friend and I gazed at the skyline as it lit up for the evening. “MERRY CHRISTMAS” lights flickered on as a Santa Claus outline swayed. My friend and I — a pair of holiday skeptics — couldn’t help but rail against the commercialism of the holiday. Our alcohol-fueled irritation grew until suddenly a nearby projector fired up, launching singing elves onto the side of a building.

I wasn’t having it this year. I pitched my holiday fit and stuck to my anti-Christmas stance.

Then the 25th rolled around. My phone went off — another “Merry Christmas!” from a new pal in Beijing. With a sigh, I tossed it aside and rolled over in my too-stiff bed.

What was so merry about a holiday spent thousands of miles from the only people I wanted to be with? I’d written to my family and friends, and was delighted to connect with so many in Colorado. But after walking back home from a very-American breakfast through particularly high air pollution (definitely not the white Christmas we were hoping for), I was sinking into late-December despair.

I’d never spent the holidays apart from my family. We didn’t necessarily care about Christmas, per se, but more about the time spent together. We exchanged gifts, ate chili, played board games and watched films. We’d bicker and argue, then watched the anger unravel at a well-timed joke.

That’s what I missed.

I pushed so hard against Christmas because I knew I’d be apart from the ones I wanted to be near. I was thrilled to be in China, but the novelty was wearing off after four months abroad. Life in Beijing had become a bit ordinary — work, gym, drinks – and had left too much time to realize how much I missed home.

As Christmas came to America the next day, I’d perked back up. I didn’t have my family here, but they were with me. I always felt their support.

I may be a Grinch about Christmas, but I’m all “Cindy Lou goes to China” when it comes to my family and friends. This expat even knows enough Chinese to assure you all: . I miss you all.

Read more about former columnist Alexandra Sieh’s adventures overseas: coloradodaily.com/columnists. Stalk her: twitter.com/ansieh.