I was really upset when I read about the recalls of leaded toys on the news before Christmas. What a lie! It is impossible for all the toys to be retracted back to the manufacturers. I know that some of these toys will be eventually filtered through to the neighbourhood dollar stores or thrift stores everywhere. For poor families that do not have means, these stores were like the heaven outposts for holiday presents. Somehow, there are always “seasonal” stores sprung up everywhere in town just before the holiday season to compliment these thrift stores for the shopping rush. (Christmas, Eid and Hanukah are usually happening in the same month.) Somehow, the families that have a tight budget always know where to shop for the bargains.


PH was a student in my class last year and I had known him since he was in kindergarten. I remember that his kindergarten and Grade one and two teachers used to ask me to act as an interpreter during the parent teacher interview time. His mother spoke very little English but she could understand a little Mandarin. I was invited to sit in to help explain to the parent about his behaviour in class because PH had trouble learning all throughout his primary grades. Naturally, he was then put in my class when he came to Grade three.

PH’s family ran a Chinese herbal medicine business. His mother gave me a can of tea and a few kind words for Christmas. It was very thoughtful for her to do that. On the last day of school last year, PH came to school with a bottle of ice wine. (Note 1) I almost fell off my chair when PH timidly presented the present to me. First of all, I would never entrust a child with a bottle of alcohol to bring to school. Furthermore, it is too much to thank a teacher with a bottle of ice wine. It is an expensive present from a student! I thanked PH for the present but I told him that I needed to talk to his mother at the end of the day when she came to pick him up.

In the same afternoon, while all the classes were at the school assembly, another parent showed up in the auditorium with a backpack. I taught the student a year before when he first arrive at our school. This parent saw me in the hallway and came up to me. She reached into her backpack to grab a bottle and gave it to me. She said she was sorry that she did not give me anything last year and she wanted me to have this bottle as a present. I looked at the bottle. Wow, it was another bottle of ice wine. I kindly thanked her for the gift and told her that I appreciated the thought but it was a very expensive present. She should really give such an expensive item to the current homeroom teacher. With a big smile, she opened her backpack to show me what she carried inside. Gosh, there were so many bottles of ice wine in the backpack! (What’s going on? The neighbourhood store must be having a sale or what? Wait, it is still an expensive present for a teacher or anybody!)

By then, I began to put two and two together. I thought I got the whole picture. My guess was that these families probably got the ice wine really cheap from the same local thrift store. Almost all the teachers who taught these two families got a bottle of ice wine. Anyway, PH’s mother, the parent I would like to talk to, did not show up after school. I did not get to thank her in person but thank Goodness, I did send PH home with a thank-you note. Of course, I had to quickly pack up and left for the summer vacation later. Those two bottles of ice wine as well as many of the knick-knacks were stored away after that day; however, the story of how I got two bottles of ice wine on the same day was told over and over again at the family gatherings.

One day at the dinner table, a family member asked me where the ice wine was made. I replied that I didn’t know because other than the front label and the winery, neither had any detailed information on the maker or the winery. This family member was into wine tasting and quite knowledgeable about the ice wine. Anyway, I took a bottle out to show him. He opened the bottle but then he raised the concern that the wine could be made in someone’s backyard winery or worse, with industrial alcohol. Ice wine is really sweet which is more like a dessert wine. Apparently, ice wine is perfect for criminals to mix with industrial alcohol to produce the fake wine. Ontario winery and brewery industries are tightly controlled and legislated by the government, it is almost impossible to buy alcohol from a local variety store that does not have an alcohol licence unless it is bootlegged or, the worst, those parents could have gotten the wine from the back of a truck!

Well, by then I had heard enough and I didn’t want to serve my guests with a bottle of unknown bootlegged ice wine that had potential to poison them all. (Hahaha. I don’t want to be on the newspaper and be famous that way.) I still have the other bottle in the cupboard till this day. It will forever be a “conversation” piece for the dinner table though. I don’t think the other teachers drank the ice wine either. (Mmmm, I should check with them.) I just feel really sorry for those parents who thought that they were getting something superb with very little money.


I often tell my students that they don’t need to buy me a present; however, I continue to receive them every year. Some of these children don’t have much but they get gratification out of shopping for me at the local dollar store and seeing me open their presents with much dramatized suspense and excitement. Oh well, I love to see them happy, so I’ve decided long ago that I would like to do something every Christmas to make them happy as well!

For years, I have established my own gift giving “counter-act” tradition. I feel like I have to give back something to these children who have very little. Every year, I would leave a small package on each student’s table the night before the last day of school; therefore, all of them would be able to open the package the next morning on the last day of school. (Note 2) The package usually includes a chapter book, a small toy or some stationary. (Books are expensive but a perfect present because children really need to read every day through the holiday break.) I usually tell my students in advance that Santa would visit them a few days before the end of school to drop off a small package of treats for everybody. So, they are usually well-behaved and get so excited about the class party on the last day of school. Kids are all excited about Santa Claus even for most of my students who are not Christians. (I have a little class of United Nations.)

Anyway, I am just happy to be Santa once a year. Whenever strangers see me at the store shopping with loads of presents and curiously ask me if I have a lot of children of my own, I always answer, “Yes, I have 20 kids, but the good thing is that, at the end of each day, I get to send all of them home.” (Now you know the secret about “Santa Moi”, please don’t tell anybody. Shihhhhh Time to fly! HoHoHo.)

Note 1: Ice wine is a very sweet delicacy with higher alcohol content. It is very hard to harvest those grapes in winter. The grapes can only be collected at a very specific temperature in the winter cold. A bottle of ice wine usually comes in a tall skinny bottle and is ranged from 20 dollars for a mini bottle to more than a hundred dollars for a small bottle. By personal choice, I don’t consume much alcohol unless for really special social occasions that I have to. I do prefer ice wine and the champagne. (Hahaha. I guess I am not a cheap date.)

Note 2: The tradition was changed this year due to an unfortunate event that happened before the break, which I will explain in detail later.
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My Corner for Education

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  • chrisdiva
  • Hello Chrisdiva, welcome!
    Yes, I am an elementary school teacher. I teach all subjects except music and gym.

    Julia1492 於 2008/01/03 01:36 回覆

  • chrisdiva
  • wow...i c...
    haha~~nice to meet u ~~^^
    so...will u come back to taiwan during school holiday?
  • I will try to visit Taiwan this summer unless something happens or family decides to visit me.

    Julia1492 於 2008/01/03 21:04 回覆

  • copact
  • wow~
    chrisdiva is good in english, too.
    next time, try the ghost story in eng.^^

    is Julia alone there?!
  • I like Chrisdiva's ghost stories. It would be great if Jayko can translate those stories into English. Hahaha...

    To reply to your question:
    Yes, I don't have my side of the family here. All of them are in Taiwan. But, I am not alone. My husband and all his family are my family now.

    Julia1492 於 2008/01/06 09:54 回覆

  • chrisdiva
  • haha~~thank you for your compliment~~^///^
    if i have the chance i'll try it...
    it's good to improve my English~~
  • copact
  • i'll ask Jayko to read this...request ^^

    wow~ u r the brave one.
  • Jayko
  • Well... Hello Julia~

    I'm very surprised to see my name here...haha
    But I have to say...
    My vocabulary is poor, and the structure of a complete topic is extremely awful...
    Mars thinks too highly of me, and I really appreciate that.^^

    I'm trying to translate your Santa topics into chinese, but I've got lots of works to do recently.
    So wish you have a Happy New Year first, and I'll keep trying to improve my stagnantly enlish....>"<
  • copact
  • Mars thinks too highly of me, and I really appreciate that.^^
    did i?? i just put jayko in right position.
    and made 4 million-clap for both of u.

    i cant wait for ur works.^^