聖誕節快樂! Christmas in China

I am not in China anymore, so I this is not a first-hand observation, the impression I got on Christmas in China is thus a result from e-mails that I received the past days. Of course this post will be not objective because it is based on few opinions mentioned in the mails and my interpretations.

Christmas is a relatively new holiday in China, so in contrast to the well established Chinese holidays it has few tradition and has become popular just in the past years after the opening of China and the growing exchange with foreign countries. The main holiday in winter still is Chinese new year (spring festival) in February.

So it seems that rather the young people are celebrating Christmas, some students do have some days off, while others don’t have much holidays. They are waiting for the upcoming longer winter vacations to visit their parents of do traveling. I was told that nowadays many people celebrate Christmas – a student from Taiwan wrote me that she very much cares about this holiday, maybe even more than traditional holidays which makes herself in her eyes a “strange Taiwanese”.

Many students admit that the business people are doing a lot of decoration so without them there would be much less Christmas atmosphere and Christmas after all is a “sales event”, there is a “a thick color of commercialization” in Christmas. However, the “sales event” is not seen too bad by a few students, because in the end, it is more than justified that after one year of labor one can treat oneself and others with some gifts. Still, some students got the feeling that there is a lack of Christmas atmosphere, Chinese themselves feel that “Christmas with Chinese characteristics” is not the same as in Western countries and not as authentic.

One withes friends “marry Christmas” – or 圣诞节快乐 (Shengdanjie Kuaile) in Chinese, and exchanges some small gifts. I learned that apples are popular gifts between students who cannot effort to buy more expensive gifts or don’t see Christmas that important that it is necessary to buy luxurious gifts because it is not such an important holiday. The apples are sold because the Chinese word for apple “pingguo” sound like “ping’an” – at least the sound of the first syllable matches. “Ping’an” means peace or peaceful, and that is quite a good Christmas blessing.

Apple with the Chinese character 福 (good fortune; blessing; happiness)
Apple with the Chinese character 福 (good fortune; blessing; happiness)

Although there are a lot of elements of Western Christmas in Chinese Christmas, there are some differences: Most students just want to have a nice time, being with friends, maybe do some traveling, but most stay home or at their university.

At the end I want to wish all readers happy holidays and a happy and prosperous new year.

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2 Responses to “聖誕節快樂! Christmas in China”

  1. kawai Says:

    I have never been in China for Christmas, so I cannot say anything neither. However what I know is that until this moment, there is no public holiday for Christmas in Mainland China, whereas Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan do not count.

    In Maindland, people work as usual until the New Year, 1st of Jan, we call it yuan dan. There is a reform of the national public holiday in China currently, a proposal of it was announced last month that a few traditional festivals are going to be included in it, such as the dragon boat festival(duan wu jie), the qing ming jie(i dont know its english name, we visit to the graves of our grandparents during this festival in memory of them) and the mid-autumn festivel(zhong qiu jie). these festivals were not used to be national publi holidays in mainland china, i dont know exactly why, but I think that has to do with the harm done by culture revolution.

    In Hong Kong it is a lot different. since we were once a britisch colony, we have Christmas and Easter. since we are indeed a chinese society with less influence from the political revolution happened in mainland in last century, we have quite a few traditional chinese festivals and cultures retained, shamely, they are ate away by the powerful but stupid economic development.

    Right, since your last stay was not during Christmas, probably you have no curl to know how crazy the HK people enjoy their Christmas. First of all, high rises next to the victoria habour in the both sides put on their christmas lighting decoration one month before it, which is around the mid of November; second, every of Malls set up their own Big, Shinging christmas tree and other related christmas installation. if one does not have a christmas tree, the mall is gonna be closed definitely as no one would like to go. third, the most intensive, to boost a christmas sale as you mentioned. I always have a feeling that people shop as crazily as they shop for free. fourth, we do need to work on 24th, we celebrate the eve of christmas with friends eating out, hanging out to bars/clubs in Lan Kwai Fong; even if one celebrate it with family, it must be in a restaurant not at home. i guess this is the biggest different to the european christmas.

    Macau probably has its own arrangement related to its portuges culture.

    In taiwan I guess there is also quite a different public holiday arrangment. especially at the moment the Chan shui-bian government is removing everything that is with a word ‘zhong’, I really dont konw what is going on in taiwan. God bless Taiwan!

    Happy New Year to you too!
    And you are wellcome to HK for a crazy Christmas next year!!! 😉

    kawai

  2. beijing07 Says:

    Hi Kawai,
    thanks for your observations on HK’s Christmas! Just today I received an e-mail from Taiwan confirming the different situation there: December 25 seems to be a public holiday – officially not because of Christmas, but because of the “National Holiday to Remember the Implementation of the Constitution” (行憲紀念日).
    Happy New Year!

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