We were very blessed the three years in Minnesota to be able to spend Christmas with our families. I think that's one of the reasons why Christmas here for the past 2yrs has been so odd. It's not the only reason... there's quite a difference in cultural attitude of the holiday, plus the heat, and some other random things but I think ultimately that's been the biggest reason why I simply could not get into the spirit of Christmas. Don't get me wrong... both years we've had fabulous Christmas' and I've enjoyed them immensely but I definitely struggled to get in the mood. And honestly, I couldn't put my finger on why.
That was until Christmas Day this year. (Better late than never I guess. LOL) I realized that I did all the typical Christmasy things here because I was desperately trying to make it feel like Christmas... not necessarily because I wanted to. Everything was always rushed because I hated being around so many people and I never took the time to enjoy the holiday season the way Hong Kong does... ultimately because it's not what I'm used to and it's not what I wanted. What a terrible attitude to have! How un-missionary like? How selfish!
Christmas is different here in HK... well duh (saying to myself) it's not the big holiday that it is in the states. Children don't get the same type or even amount of gifts (that you would expect in the states anyway), families are not together 24/7, cookies aren't always baked, the standard meal isn't ham, shops don't close, etc... you get the idea. But what's great is that Ocean Park makes snow, as does Disney and they light a huge tree, decorations and lights are every where, there's a Winterfest with the biggest tree ever-santa-nativity scene-wishing trees-etc, if you're lucky (like we were) there is some caroling, etc. There are some really neat things about Christmas in HK and the best is that Mike gets a few extra days off.
So despite the lacking of my Christmas spirit, we did make some of our own traditions this year and on Christmas Day, I vowed to let go of my wants/selfishness and take advantage of Christmas in Hong Kong. We may not live here forever and I want to be able to say... "Christmas in HK was incredible. We were able to do...."
One of the things I really wanted to do this year was forego presents and 'do' something special. But if you know me well enough, you'll know that I can't resist buying gifts for others so we limited our budget (for spacial reasons too) and decided to 'do' something special too. My original idea was go to Disneyland or Ocean Park but then reality hit and neither of us wanted to spend Christmas with a million of our closest friends. So we decided to go hiking.... but then the question of 'where' hit. Where do we go with a toddler who probably will want to walk at some point? So we decided (and this is really funny to me) to visit one of HK's tourist spots... the big buddha.
This trip involved (I like to write these out because it's fun for me to remember what it takes to get there) a cab to the ferry, the Star Ferry, the Lantau Ferry, and then a bus. Total time: about 1hr 15mintues. Not too bad and Isabella was wonderful! The only problem was the last bus ride... Lantau is pretty mountainous with curvy roads and well... my balance issues have returned. I was so sick by the time we actually got to the buddha. But thankfully is passed pretty quickly with fresh air. Yes... FRESH AIR!!! It was so nice!
We walked around the monestary and the temple. I was so saddened to see all the golden buddha's and people bowing down to them and burning incense. It was really quite overwhelming to see so many people (young and old) participating in this. Then we climbed the 268 steps to get an upclose view of the giant buddha. I have to be honest in that I wasn't totally impressed with the area. I don't know if it was ultimately because it was depressing to me or maybe I was still a bit sick... but it's not someplace that I'd desire to go to again. I am glad that I went though. It opened my eyes to how many people really do practice buddhism... I guess to me it was something I always heard about but never believed it really went on because I didn't see people praying/bowing/etc to him. Anyway....
The new cable cars were open so we walked over to the little village and Mike got this great photo of starbucks among this old chinese village (well made to look that way) with buddha in the background. It was really quite humorous to us.
And we never did get to hike. The bus took us straight to buddha (we thought it stopped somewhere else where we'd have a bit of a hike) and by the time we were about to leave it was getting dark and not a wise idea to hike where we planned to. But that was okay... we hopped back on the bus (didn't get nearly as sick this time), hopped on the Lantau ferry, star ferry and cabbed it home. We treated ourselves to Pizza Hut for dinner and enjoyed relaxing together. Who knew that night we'd experience our 2nd earthquake in HK?
It's a bit hard to see but there are multiple buddha's in this picture and everything is designed in gold.