Christmas in Any Language

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is baking and sharing homemade “goodies.” One year, just before Christmas, a new family moved into our neighborhood—two houses up and across the street from us. Since I was already baking some Christmas teacakes covered with red, green and yellow sugar crystals, I made an extra dozen for our new neighbors. I placed them in a decorative jar and tied a festive red ribbon around the top.

Planning a trip to town, I decided to drop off the jar of colorful teacakes on my way. Since most of our neighbors were young couples with children, I was surprised when an elderly Chinese gentleman greeted me at the door in broken English.
I tried to explain the reason for my gift—to welcome them to our neighborhood—but Mr. Chung’s eyes filled with confusion. This was not the quick stop I had planned. I wanted to plunk the jar of sweets into my neighbor’s hands, wish him a Merry Christmas and be on my way but communication proved difficult.   

Outside of my native tongue, I was fairly fluent in Spanish, had survival skills in French and knew a few German phrases. I even remembered sparse greetings in Russian and Japanese, but I didn’t know a single word of Chinese.   

Mr. Chung followed me to the car, asking me to point out the exact house in which I lived. After several tries with words, pointing and gestures, he seemed content in knowing who I was and where I lived. He returned to his house and I jumped into my car, anxious to get to town and to my appointment.

The following Saturday, my doorbell rang and there at my front door stood Mr. Chung, along with his petite wife and their adult daughter who spoke flawless English. “My parents wanted to thank you for your kindness,” she said, as I opened the door and invited them inside. Mr. Chung presented me with a small package of Santa cookies and Mrs. Chung gave a slight bow and offered a greeting in Chinese.

As we sat in the living room chatting, my oldest son came into the room carrying his little brother on his shoulders. Mrs. Chung’s face suddenly lit up and her hands automatically extended toward Jay, my toddler. Then, seeming embarrassed to have displayed such emotion, she quickly sat back against the sofa but continued to watch Jay quietly for the short time they visited in our home.   

In the months following Christmas, Mrs. Chung and I became friends. And though she never spoke a word of English, we were always welcomed into her home, especially Jay. She seemed to take great delight in his presence. Not being able to actually converse with Mrs. Chung, I never knew for certain what caused her sweet reaction to Jay on that Christmas visit in our home. But I have always believed that my little son with Down syndrome and his tiny, almond shaped eyes, reminded my new neighbor of her own children and grandchildren and a homeland far away on that most
holy holiday.

May you have a blessed Christmas as you
celebrate the birth of our Lord—Jesus Christ. 


Christmas Teacakes

1 cup butter or margarine, softened 
2 & 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts Confectioners sugar
Colored sugar crystals

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Thoroughly mix butter, 1/2-cup confectioners sugar and vanilla. Work in flour, salt and nuts until dough holds together. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll some of them in colored sugar before baking. Leave some plain. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until set but not brown. While warm, roll plain teacakes in confectioners sugar. Cool. Yields 4-dozen teacakes.

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