Friday, December 08, 2006

St. Stephen's Christmas Fete

It really sunk in that we were in Hong Kong this month. Not when we understood a tiny bit of Chinese on the street or walked through an ancient temple but when we saw Santa arrive via helicopter at a Christmas party. Not only did Santa fly in from Central, circling all of us waiting for him on a local sports field a couple times, but he disembarked and drove off to "Santa’s Grotto" in a red convertible Jaguar. Of course, Hong Kong is very affluent and fashion forward but I didn’t realize Santa Claus was too. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Now every time a helicopter flies overhead, the kids look up at Santa and lots of good behavior starts at once.

Our Hong Kong/Santa moment actually happened at our local church, St. Stephen’s, Christmas fete. This fall we quickly found the small Anglican St. Stephen's Chapel, which is minutes away from our apartment and beautifully located on the grounds of St. Stephen’s College. The beautiful location belies a much uglier past. St. Stephen’s Chapel was built in 1949 in remembrance of those who suffered and died when the College itself was part of the Stanley Internment Camp. During World War II, one of the worst attrocites of the final battle of Hong Kong occurred on the grounds of St. Stephen’s. On Christmas Day 1941, 65 doctors, nurses and patients were killed there as the entire area of Stanley surrendered to the Japanese. Over the next four years of the war, Allied civilians were interred at the Stanley Camp.

In spite of or because of all this history, St. Stephen’s is a beautiful calm spot for reflection, with lush greenery all around and views of the South China Sea. There are lovely stain glass windows in the church as well as local art. One paintings shows a Chinese Jesus surrounded by Chinese children. On our first day there, all our kids were staring at this picture during the service and I was anticipating a question about Jesus. Instead, the whole thing became rather introverted and someone said something like oh, so Jesus loves Chinese kids too?


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