Chinese celebrating Christmas holiday

Updated: 2010-12-24 10:33

By Liu Lu (China Daily European Weekly)

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The younger generation and every king of retailer are embracing the Christmas holiday more than ever before

The smiling face of Santa Claus is omnipresent all across China. Wander past hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and even mom-and-pop stores in bigger cities and a poster of St. Nicholas is wishing everybody a merry Christmas. Christmas trees, too. Inside these centers, the cheerful melody of carols fill the air, telling shoppers it is Christmas time again whether they understand the festival or not. 

Chinese celebrating Christmas holiday

This wholesale market in Nanjing is filled with Santa Clauses as
the Christmas spirit spreads across the majorcities. Duo Duo / For
China Daily

Local governments are decorating trees and lamp posts with lights and ornaments. At first glance visitors would think they were in Europe.

But in fact, all this yule-time activity is not only happening in Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin and Shenzhen but also in smaller cities.

Despite the fact that most Chinese are not Christians, Christmas season has become increasingly popular.

"If you walked around major Chinese cities 15 years ago, you wouldn't have seen many signs of Christmas. However, if you were to visit those same Chinese cities again today, you'd be surprised to see signs of Christmas almost everywhere," says Cai Jiming, a professor with Tsinghua University, who has served as an expert in developing China's holiday schedule.

Although Christmas is not a public holiday, many Chinese cities are still getting into the Christmas spirit.

Cai says his e-mail inbox and cell phone have been flooded with messages wishing him a merry Christmas. The greetings have been coming in since the end of November.

"The increasingly stronger Christmas atmosphere in China reflects a prevalent cultural interest and indicates a considerable number of Chinese, especially people from urban areas, have accepted this foreign holiday," he says.

In his view, Christmas seems like a "warm-up" for the truly important month-long Spring Festival, which begins on Feb 3 next year.

However, despite the prevalence of Christmas celebrations, for most Chinese, it neither means a religious celebration nor an occasion for family reunions. Instead, it is a time for relaxing with friends, a time to shop, a time to have a party and it is especially a time for romance.

"I expect my boyfriend to take me out on Christmas Eve and I expect a romantic night," says Christine Zhou, 28, a hotel manager in Beijing.

"It seems to me that everything associated with Christmas time is romantic."

Like Zhou, young people ignore the cold winter weather, and embrace the imported holiday with a high level of enthusiasm. In Beijing, when night falls in late December some couples gather in the front steps of the St. Joseph's Cathedral, a historic Catholic church located in downtown Beijing, and make a special wish that they stay together forever.

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