On the evening of December 20th, ABC International held its DREAM Christmas party at Picture My Cup Café, a quaint photography themed café in Wangjing, North-East Beijing. For many DREAM students, this was their very first Christmas, so ABC threw a special Christmas party to celebrate with staff, friends, and volunteers. The night before the event, the foster homes and the cafe were hives of activity as Ma Laoshi and the DREAM students prepared dumplings, vegetable and meat dishes and the café prepared a variety of Mexican and American food. Afterwards, the DREAM students decorated the Christmas tree and the café with fairy lights and tinsel and prepared for the live entertainment they would be providing their guests in less than 24 hours. On the evening itself, the DREAM students sat at the entrance of the café adorned with Santa hats and welcomed the guests as they entered, received their nametags, and helped themselves to plates of dumplings, vegetables, grilled cheese and cups of delicious tomato soup. The limelight was then on the DREAM students, who anxiously waited in line to introduce themselves in English before the audience. This was the perfect opportunity for them to demonstrate how much their English has improved during their time at ABC. Students described their hometowns, gave details about their favorite hobbies and wished the audience a Merry Christmas. Through these introductions, the audience was able to learn about each student’s personality, background and goals. Olive gave a detailed description of her interests and explained to the audience how she aims to become a translator and so she is working hard to improve her English. William gave a vivid description of his hometown in Yunnan and managed to convince half the audience that they should visit!
Following this, the boys sang a song together about friendship and their hometowns and then the whole group sang a song together about love. The audience applauded enthusiastically and there were calls of “Encore! Encore!” William responded by offering to sing a solo! He bravely stood before the whole audience and sung a traditional song from his minority group, the Li Su minority group. The whole group then performed a famous Chinese drama sketch, Tang Bohu, where Vanessa took the lead role as the man who has fallen in love with Qiu Xiang, who was played by Linda. The DREAM students added their own modern jokes, which made the Tang Dynasty sketch even more amusing and had the audience in fits of laughter. This was the first time many of the DREAM students had performed in front of an audience, and most said they found it really exhilarating, even if they’d been quite nervous!
The projector screen then slowly rose to reveal two tables stacked with presents of all shapes and sizes. Everyone then played “Pass the snowman”, where a cuddly toy snowman was passed around the room in time with the music. When the music stopped, whoever was holding the snowman got the chance to pick a present, and there were cheers around the room as each guest unwrapped a present. A variety of handcreams, scarves, lip-balms, laundry baskets, gloves, and picture frames were excitedly unwrapped and swapped until all guests had a present they were happy with.
Everyone then participated in a memory game, where participants were divided into two teams – the Santa team (those with Santa hats) and the non-Santa team – and given new names for the duration of the game. The aim of the game was for each team to get six members into the “hot seats” through remembering everyone’s new name and reorganizing their positions accordingly. The game became increasingly competitive as the students began to associate faces with their new names. Shouts of “Ma Laoshi! Charles!” and “Jiang Anming!” filled the air. Much to the mock fury of the non-Santa team, the Santa team finally managed to get six participants into the “hot seats,” and those winners were rewarded with prizes of Calvin Klein wallets, Polo-shirts and Cosmetics. The evening ended with a group photo, with many participants still wearing their Santa hats and with Jiang Anming posing at the front of the photo.
Overall, the DREAM students agreed it had been a wonderful way to spend their first Christmas. They had shared presents, eaten a variety of delicious food, played games and had the opportunity to perform in English and Chinese in front of an audience. But most importantly, they had celebrated their very first Christmas with fellow DREAM students, their teachers and their friends.