My first experience with real snow started on one morning being woken up by my dad’s whisper in my ear: “ Get up baby, it’s snowing! ” I was about 10 years old then and we were staying at my grandparents’ place in a small village two hours away from my city in China, for the Chinese New Year. I got up and got dressed as soon as I could, and was very excited to go outside. It’d been snowing the whole night before and everything I saw was white and glowing with the daylight. The small snowflakes slowly fell down from the sky, falling on the trees, the mountains, the ground, and my face, sending me their sweetest greetings. I was running around in the snow with great amazement. It was so wonderful and magical. “Who sent the beautiful snow? Who made them? ” I wondered immensely. Because the southern city where I grew up rarely had snow in winter. So I stayed outside as long as I could just to enjoy the beauty of my first snowy day.
I loved snow. I loved how it gave me a glimpse of something pure and beautiful that’s not of this world yet it’s so real and tangible. Sometimes when observing each snowflake with its unique shape slowly swinging down from the sky, I got caught up to this romantic and magical feeling as if I could see with my eyes the fresh grace of heaven falling down. I kept thinking that how fitting it is to have them coming to the world during Christmas season. They would make the most lovely ornaments if they could be without melting away. A southern Chinese girl like me started to understand that many people love a white Christmas for a reason.
Growing up in China though, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. Traditionally we would have a big family reunion during Chinese New Year, like that year when I saw snow for the first time at my grandma’s place. But not on Christmas. Nothing for Christmas. However, ever since I learned the word “Christmas” and learned it’s a festival to be celebrated, I was fascinated by it. I didn’t know why. I would spend my pocket money buying some small presents like pencil cases or photo frames for my friends at school and write Christmas cards for them. One of the first English songs I ever learned was Silent Night, taught by our teacher at primary school during one Christmas season. Though I didn’t know what the song was really about, I loved it. It brought me a great sense of peace and kept me wondering who the child and virgin Mary were as I sang it. I often imagined a snowy Christmas that I thought I shall never have. I always thought there’s nothing more magical than a white Christmas.
Through all my childhood, I knew about Christmas, but I didn’t know the true meaning of it. I heard about Santa Clause from the southern pole riding on reindeer sled sending presents to everyone and I earnestly hoped that he would have one for me, but I never heard about Jesus born in a manger on Christmas to give Himself to us as the greatest gift of all. The latter version might have made more sense in my little brain and it might have spared me from the disappointment of not receiving any gift from Santa. After all, we didn’t have a chimney.
Nevertheless, the snow gave me hope. I thought there must be something more than my disappointment for the uncelebrated Christmas or the diminished desire of receiving presents from Santa. There must be something better than the ideology I was brought up with, which denied anything magical or unreasonable. Because when I saw the pure white snow and shapes of the snowflakes, experiencing their gentle falling in my palm, on my face and eventually leaving a thin layer on my bonnet and jacket, I saw goodness and grace that surpassed my surroundings and understanding, and that which I didn’t have words for as a child might have been the reason for me to fancy Christmas in the first place.
Thankfully I learned about the true meaning of Christmas when I was 19 years old, which not only opened my eyes for this magical season but forever changed my life.
Now having lived in Europe for 6 years, I’ve seen beautiful snow every winter here in Switzerland and celebrated many Christmases with families and friends. Just the other evening, with my husband and our 16-month-old son, we went to the Christmas market in the city. As I was walking in the outdoor market, enjoying the accompany of my family, the different looks of lights hanging on trees, the colorful and glowing Christmas trees and the many cabin booths for selling different types of food from all over the world, it began to snow. As I looked up to the sky decorated with sparkling Christmas lights, watching the little snowflakes gracefully swinging down, with a great delight, I remembered this was once my childhood dream. Thus, I gave thanks to the Creator of snow, the newborn King in a manger, the life Giver and dream Fulfiller, for the foretaste of what’s still yet to come.
Merry Christmas!! 🎄