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Christmas in China Posted by on Dec 27, 2010 in Culture, festivals

While I realize that we’ve had two Christmas posts already, and that the holiday is passed us, I decided to write my last post of 2010 about Christmas time in China. Having now spent the holiday season in Beijing twice (2008 and 2010), I have noticed a much greater presence of Christmas here through the years.

For the past month, the Christmas spirit has been alive and well here in Beijing, in subway stations, shopping centers, restaurants, and bars all across the city. I swear I’ve heard “Jingle Bells” at least once a day, every day, for the last month. In the department store near my apartment, Christmas trees, stockings, tinsel, ornaments, and any other Christmas trinket you could imagine were prominently on display. At every mall in town, huge sales were happening in honor of the special day. While many people here do not know or understand the history and traditions of this holiday, one thing is clear – they sure love the shopping that accompanies it.

In restaurants big and small, waiters and cooks have been wearing red and white hats, and the image of Santa Claus (圣诞老人 – shèng dàn lǎo rén – lit. Christmas old person) has been everywhere you look. While my six year old students were excited when I taught them a special Christmas lesson dressed as Father Christmas himself, they were quick to point out the fantastic aspects of the story – “How does he come down the chimeny? He’s too fat!” Even at landmarks like the Bird’s Nest (鸟巢 – niǎo cháo), there stands a giant, well-lit Christmas tree. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in my time living here in China, it’s that people here love a reason to celebrate. That being said, it comes as no surprise that China has embraced Christmas. Plus, it’s good for business…

It’s not just the pretty decorations and presents that have peaked China’s curiosity, though. Many of my students have asked me about the story behind Christmas. After all, Christmas in Chinese, or 圣诞节 (shèng dàn jié) literally translates as “holy birth festival.” I’ve noticed more and more that people here are curious about the story of Jesus (耶稣 – yē sū), and not just the secular traditions Christmas has to offer. There are many Christians (基督教徒 – jī dū jiào tú) here in China, and they go to midnight mass (午夜弥撒 – wǔ yè mí sā) just like folks back in the US. Of course, Christmas is an important holiday for Christians (圣诞节对基督教徒来说是个重要节日 – shèng dàn jié duì jī dū jiào tú lái shuō shì gè zhòng yào jié rì). While Christmas still isn’t a national holiday, it’s clear that this is one holiday that is here to stay in China.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, wherever you celebrated! Until next year, I wish all of our readers a Happy New Year!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


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