Christmas. It’s a time for eggnog, Mariah Carey renditions of holiday songs, and most importantly, the beloved Christmas tree. Christmas is not really a thing here because well, it’s China. But I thought I simply must persevere and Christmas would be a thing in my apartment, even if the rest of the nation was not celebrating in a similar fashion.
So the research commenced. The French Concession had trees. But the French Concession tree prices did not cater to a teacher’s salary. This really shouldn’t have surprised me since a plate of French Toast in the French Concession will run you about $32. (That might be a slight exaggeration.) So alas, no trees there. I like Christmas, but I don’t like it $200. After a good click around on Google, I hit the jackpot. The flower market right around the corner from my apartment had trees for around $30 or 200 RMB. Bingo.
Saturday afternoon, I hopped on my bike and trundled on over to Caojiadu Flower Market. And the second I entered the market, I was cursing the writer who had allowed me to get my hopes up about 200 RMB trees. The first price? 1,300 RMB. Ha. That’s nice. But that certainly isn’t 200 RMB. I knew I could bargain that down to around 800 RMB, but no less. I kept asking for prices and they all lingered around the unfathomably high price of 1000 RMB. The only place that gave me a reasonable tree price was at a corner store where they have a one foot tall tree for 300 RMB. And it seemed better to have no tree than an embarrassingly small one foot tall tree.
I flung my hands up in the air. Christmas wouldn’t be a thing this year. So sad. In my last ditch attempt to still find this Godforsaken tree, I walked to the back of the market, to the no frills part of the market where they sell flowers in bulk. It was flowers upon flowers upon flowers. And it seemed like there was no hope. I wasn’t going to string a bunch of daffodils together and call it a Christmas tree. I had 300 RMB of tacky Christmas decorations from Tesco that had been purchased the day before and I knew from my years of scientific research that a daffodil tree couldn’t support my decorations either. I needed a legit tree to hang the lights, tinsel, and ornaments on.
Then, I saw it in the distance. One single tree. Standing there. And I went up to the owner and asked HOW MUCH?! And he said 50 RMB. And I nearly threw myself at him out of sheer happiness.
Half an hour later, I was sitting in the back of a taxi on my way home with a tree, pot (50RMB), and soil (bargained down to 20 RMB). Christmas tree stands are non-existent in China apparently, so I basically had to plant a tree in my house. Lovely.
While it may look like the most Charlie Brown of trees, it is my Christmas tree, and I love it with all of its lopsidedness and missing-branch-ness. It seemed like a frivolous purchase at the start. But when you are living in a foreign country away from friends and family during the holiday season, it is amazing what an eight dollar tree with cheap twinkly lights from the supermarket can do to make you feel more at home in such a different country. I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent my money than on these ridiculously entertaining purchases.
So from my home to yours, happy holidays to all!