12 Days of Christmas – Wai Chim

I caught up with Wai Chim a few months ago at the SCBWI Inside Story event that was held in Sydney. I wrote about that here. She is new on the children’s writing scene but I am glad that she has joined the tribe – as will her readers be!

Wai Chin’s reflection of Christmas s very definitely one of thankfulness and sharing and whole heartedly embracing the tradition that is Christmas.

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Wai Chim

My parents moved to the US from China, so Christmas wasn’t much of a family tradition in my household. But while being Chinese meant that we didn’t do the traditional family dinner and gather around on Christmas day, it didn’t stop us from trying to embrace the spirit of the American holiday. My mother bought a little one foot tree with mini Styrofoam ornaments that we would put up every year. She would hang Christmas lights in the windows of our 2 bedroom unit in New York. And when our tribute decorations were up, I’d play Disney Christmas carols on a tape deck and have my own holiday celebrations in my imagination.

But the thing I remember the most about Christmas at home was that every year, my mother would give gifts to my primary school teachers. That was the thing that mattered the most to her about these unfamiliar holidays; she saw it as her chance to thank them for everything they did. She took care to pick some lovely, practical and thoughtful gifts like umbrellas, wallets or beautiful scarves from the department store. And she didn’t just give them to my current teacher; the week before the holidays, she would sit and wait in the school office with a row of neat little packages all wrapped up and clearly labelled for Miss Damm from kindergarten, Mrs Lieberman from Year 1 and upwards. She did this year after year, her pile of packages growing larger all the time until I reached Year 6 and Mrs Coyle was the 7th and final teacher on the list.

It’s now as an adult that I realise that for a Chinese woman out of her depth and caught up in this foreign tradition, my mother embraced the spirit of Christmas oh so perfectly well.

Merry Christmas everyone and here’s to a joyful, kind and loving 2014.

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Wai Chim lives in Sydney and is the author of Chook Chook, a middle-grade series about a young girl growing up with her pet chooks in contemporary China. Born in New York to Chinese parents, Wai’s writing draws heavily on her culture and heritage. She currently lives and resides in Sydney.

Her latest books are: Chook Chook: Mei’s Secret Pets and Chook Chook: Little and Lo in the City, both published by UQP.

Do check out her website – www.waichim.com

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