In the West, the last month of each year is a carnival month surrounded by festivals: in addition to the well-known Christmas, there are also festivals such as Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve. Google changed its new doodles in December. The word of “Google” are covered with colorful lights.
This year is so unusual with endless pandemic infestation. Our local Government has strongly urged staying home not traveling during this holiday season because of our hospital facility limitations. However, the festive atmosphere of in our neighborhood is still there. I walk with Gigi every morning, I’m so inspired by the feestive scenes: Christmas trees by the windows, colorful lights decorated the house, wreaths at the gates, at our front door, neighbors left their Holliday goodies. At our home, greeting cards flying like snow flakes while I’m baking Christmas cookies. I won’t let the disaster deter my spirit — to keep myself busy. The Mexican poet Octavio Paz (Nobel Prize winner in 1990) wrote: “Our festivals are explosive. Nothing is more interesting than Mexican festivals. … Through festivals, society separates itself from the past. It is liberated from the established norms. It mocks its own divine principles and laws: it denies its own self.”
The holiday season in December of this year is atypical. Unlike in previous years, we are isolated from the world and celebrated alone behind closed doors. Here, I would like to present our annual “Holiday Wishes” greeting card to our families and friends:
Dear Families and Friends,
There’s a Chinese superstitious saying that Gengzi Year (every 60 years in a circle) is a disastrous year. It is indeed precise. For everyone, this unprecedented pandemic year, we’ve lost nearly one normal year. During this quiet and quarantined time, I realized 2020 is near the end. Our 5-year-old golden retriever Gigi is the best companion to us. She jumps to our bed every morning to give us a morning kiss, which brightens our day instantaneously!
January: When Covid-19 broke out in Wuhan, America was still a “pure land”. We celebrated the Chinese New Year’s eve with my Chinese relatives and friends at our home. I specially cooked Wuhan “Re Gan Mian” (Hot Dry Noodles) in dedication to the victims in China. Then I headed towards San Francisco for the premier of my chamber opera Eighteen Melodies for Hujia by the West Edge Opera. Vivian Yao (the marvelous young soprano), Mary Chun (the versatile conductor) and Earplay Ensemble did a fantastic job!
February: While I was in the Bay Area for my opera, I also visited many museums in the Bay Area. I love the Bay Area! Staying at Louise, Mike, John, Nancy and Jean’s homes was so much fun. Their hospitalities were very heartwarming!
March: We had the last party just before the lockdown. Somehow we already started avoid hugging, elbow touching and hands washing. I made Cornish game hens (Bill’s recipe). Then on March 19th, Governor Newsom declared lockdown due to Covid-19. Like all the citizens, unprepared and panicked. I started stocking up with necessities. Streets looked like ghost towns. It was so shocking.
April: Finally I adjusted to the quarantined life. I did a big spring cleaning and got rid of a lot of stuff. Then one day I heard Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise from the radio in the morning, I was very inspired by this piece of such a beautiful melody. In 2 weeks, I wrote a multiple-media composition Soliloquy in the Epidemic Spring (for String Quartet, Electronic Sound and Visual Effects).
May: Planting vegetables, cooking with my own produce, walking Gigi kept me so occupied. It’s not too bad we fully enjoyed our home. Bill also got used to the pastoral life at home. We “zoomed” a lot. Bill calls them “computer parties”. We kept in touch with families and friends from all over the world.
June: Solitary life is the best time to be creative. I began to develop an interest in writing blogs on “WeChat” (in Chinese)
My Blog in Chinese (Chinese Dragon Boat Festival)
and “Wordpress” (in English). I shared my cooking experiences and other life observations with my readers all over the world. I’m absolutely galvanized by their comments and supports. I also started teaching composition online, which refresh my own compositional skills.
July: It’s purely our “staycation” accompanied by a soothing pool, relaxing jacuzzi and an abundant organic vegetable garden. I cooked a lot. During this pandemic, the positive side what I got is that I’ve been polishing my cooking skills and experimenting new recipes. I began a composition entitled Episodes During the Plagued Summer: 7 movements of all festivals and cooking involved with festivals of various ethnicities. On July 4th we had a traditional barbecue and on Bastille Day, I made Coq au Vin and ratatouille to remember our dear late French friend Charlotte.
August: I did a lot of gardening under the scorching sun, then jumped into the pool. Doing this routine was a really paradisal feeling. The highlight of the month was to celebrate the Chinese Valentines Day – Qixi Festival: looking at the starry milky way from our garden.
September: The major event was Bill’s birthday. Although we were unable to hold a big party in person, we had 2 family zoom parties. It’s so nice to see families and friends. Due to the extreme heat, “Bobcat” wild fire broke out in nearby Mount Wilson and was very threatening. I packed 13 suitcases ready to evacuate. My neighbors were so wonderful, we supported each other emotionally during this difficult time.
October: Chinese Moon Festival and Halloween were the main occasions.
November: For the first time since we got married 29 years ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving alone at home. We miss the bountiful feasts at Bill’s niece Linda’s home, then recent years moved to Bill’s grand niece Kim and Jason’s home. Making a turkey dinner was a novelty for me, I was very proud that I made it with flying colors. We celebrated our 29th anniversary by cooking a delicious Danish dinner following a Martha Stewart’s cooking book.
December: The first day of the month, the marvelous Gloria Cheng gave a spectacular concert entitled “My Windows” online. My A Flowing Brook in Yunnan was elegantly performed.
On December 16th, it is Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, my little piano piece was inspired by Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. We celebrate every holiday of all cultures, that’s what America is about. I love this country because it gives me the freedom of speech and I love the diversity. California is a perfect place for us!
The year of 2020 is about to end, Covid-19 is still vicious, but we see the light of at the end of the tunnel — the vaccines are here. At this difficult time, we cherish you for your love and friendship. We wish this holiday season will sparkle and shine. We hope pleasures will accompany you, environmentally conscious, Peace on earth!
Wreathed in smiles and boxed in happiness,
Joan, Bill & Gigi