December is Peiling Wang's least favorite time of year. She's the only student in the whole fifth grade whose family doesn't celebrate Christmas. In the Wang family, the important holiday is Chinese New Year, held in January or February. Sure, Peiling loves her family's New Year celebration, but in December she feels left out when she hears her classmates' stories of Christmas carols, family dinners and especially all those presents.
But this December, things are looking up for Peiling. School is very busy, thanks to Miss Rosensweig, who is unlike any teacher Peiling and her friends have ever had before. There are rehearsals for the school play, and an unusual winter art project to work on. Best of all, for the first time since immigrating to America seven years ago, Peiling's Mama and Baba have agreed to have an American Christmas, with a real Christmas tree, and presents, and a real American Christmas dinner. Unfortunately, nothing about Peiling's Christmas turns out quite right. Instead of roasting the turkey, Mama cooks it Chinese style. No one wants to sing carols, and the aunts and uncles end up playing mahjong. Mama even invited Miss Rosensweig, who doesn't celebrate Christmas. If it weren't for the presents from Mama and Uncle Samson, Peiling's Christmas would be a disaster. Funny thing is, only Peiling seems to notice that it's all going wrong. Everyone else is having a fun time. Back at school in January, Miss Rosensweig even tells the other fifth graders about her wonderful Chinese-style Christmas celebration. At first Peiling is embarrassed, until she notices that perfect Laura Hamilton actually seems jealous that their teacher spent Christmas with the Wangs.
Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas is a gentle, fun and truthful tale that will connect with anyone who's felt uncomfortable about being different. Author Pauline Chen invites readers into the lives of a Chinese immigrant family to experience the joys of cultural tradition, while acknowledging the awkwardness that often arises as people from different backgrounds learn to live and celebrate together.
Writer Robin Wright Gunn celebrates her holidays in Savannah, Georgia.