Friday, December 25, 2009

圣诞快乐 (Merry Christmas)

It was christmas yesterday, but as usual living in China I have not really celebrated it.

Christmas is of course not a public holiday in China (it's amazing how many Westeners still find this surprising when I tell them), since it is not a traditional Chinese holiday. However, in Chinese cities it has now become impossible not to notice when christmas is coming up. Although the level of excitment over christmas is not nearly as high as it is in the West, the Chinese are also increasingly aware of it, at least in big cities. Shops and restaurants often display signs saying "merry christmas" in English or in Chinese and christmas decorations, and I have seen some christmas trees in shopping malls and public places. I have also attended a couple of christmas shows held by a university department and a high school. I have even seen waiters in restaurants wearing santa claus hats. Of course, for most Chinese people in practice christmas doesn't mean very much, not least because it is a working day. Last year my Chinese teacher initially set an exam on christmas day, although after all the foreign students complained it was moved to the 26th (at that point some people tried to complain again, but luckily and quite rightly the teacher took no notice).

The Chinese name for christmas is 圣诞节 (shengdanjie), meaning the "holiday for the birth of the saint". Even so, I am doubtful that many Chinese even know what is actually being celebrated at christmas. The exception to this of course is the minority of Chinese christians. For most Chinese it is simply a Western holiday, and so it is considered of interest and worth imitating. In recent years the Chinese have become more and more aware of all Western (or at least Anglo-Saxon) festivals, from Hallowen to St. Valentine's day. The funniest thing is when Chinese friends wish me a happy thanksgiving day, not realizing that it is only an American holiday, and that people in Europe are hardly even aware of it. However, I am glad to see that the main holidays in China remain the traditional Chinese ones. The biggest Chinese festival, the real equivalent of what christmas is for the West, remains the Chinese New Year, and I hope it stays that way. It would be so boring if the whole world started celebrating the same holidays.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so glad i have learned somthing that i did not know from your blog.Moreover i am happy that you like china and the cultural tradition so much.Aileen