Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Search For Santa

Ever since I was around one or two years old, I have been visiting Santa to get a picture taken. As a child, this was a priority for my dad...thanks Dad! I think this was because it provided a nice record of my growth and change and, more simply, a fun tradition.

I continued this tradition into my teen years, by stopping at the mall with some of my closest friends and then by persuading my boyfriend to join me. That boyfriend became my husband, and so the tradition continued...

Every year, since the kids were born, we have taken one Santa picture of Julie and Z and one picture of all of us. True to my dad's idea, these pictures have provided a great record of growth and change in all of us.

Knowing this year it might be tricky to pull off a Santa picture, I started working early to find a place. I thought that one of the western malls might be a prime location. A few "sources" led me in the direction of Chao Yang...a district where many waiguoren reside.

After a wild goose chase or two (which, by Beijing standards, constitute day trips), and the realization that mall design in China is much different than the US, as there are no center courts where Santa might have his photo stop, I thought we were out of luck. With the right attitude, Steve suggested that we improvise and take a picture with one of those "shaking hip" Santas that happened to be in a basement supermarket. Conceding that our search was probably over, we stood with "plastic Santa" and decided that we'd consider it part of the legend of our Chinese Christmas.

Step in Rick Reilly. With connections beyond my scope, Rick discovered a Santa available for photo ops! The Village Mall in Sanlitun was the place, so in a last ditch effort (2 pm on Christmas Eve), we headed across town to see Santa...with Chinese characteristics.

In an out of the way place (the basement, of course!), there he was, sitting in his chair (text messaging) and surrounded by two "helpers" and a photographer. They were all happy and excited to see us, and they took lots of pictures...some of which featured Santa in what I'd call "Eminem" poses. While all these pictures were taken totally for free, they had no printer to print them up. Apparently, they are going to e-mail them to us. In any case, we snapped a few of our own.

No doubt, we will always cherish these pictures. One, because they were difficult to come by. Two, because we were able to keep our tradition going. And three, because Chinese Santa rocks (and raps)!



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