If there is one unexpected place in the world where people celebrate Christmas,, it is China. Belief in baby Jesus is optional.
Christmas isn’t traditional for us Chinese – we don’t even get Christmas Day off! – but, still, most people-will gear up for Santa’s visit.
Here I am in front of one of Beijing’s most famous markets Tianyi. You don’t need to go inside to get into the festive mood. I want to know what exactly they sell and how their business going on? And I’m going in the front door. I’ll leave the chimney for Santa
Look! Bowing Santa Claus, cycling Santa Claus; snow white trees, and glittering trees…..anything crazy that you could possibly imagine, not to mention all kinds of fancy accessories.
My eyes are hurting! All these sparkles and swirls! Busy shoppers and busier vendors-and this madam was so sweet that she gave me her best Christmas hat as a present!
"How long have you been doing Christmas business?"
"I’ve been doing this since 1988. We have many varieties for the Spring Festival too. But Christmas sells better. It’s dozens of times the volume of Spring Festival."
Blimey! Even more profitable than the Spring Festival! Do we Chinese have dragon-fatigue? In other words, are we tired of the symbols and baubles that go with OUR New Year, so we start to make a western festival a big deal? Or is it we just can’t wait for an extra month? But no cash, no days-off, no history, not even faith, why are we celebrating? And when did we become so Christmas-crazy?
"When was your first Christmas?"
"It’s been several years. Since 2003. It’s a slim chance that my friends can get together usually, but we’ll try our best when there is a festival."
"I can’t really remember… But my first proper Christmas was after I went to Britain."
"I think it was because of the atmosphere. Chinese people seemed to accept this festival."
Well it’s all very well. Since China is now the manufacturer of nearly 80% of the world’s Christmas ornaments, why shouldn’t we keep some of them? But the thing is, China seems to get a lot of it wrong.
Bright red Christmas tree, leopard print socks, and what are those-smiling snowballs???
And here December 25 is a party holiday instead of family time, and Christmas Eve more likely to find you at one popular club than Midnight Mass.
But hey we are just trying to have some fun, and maybe the best thing about a tradition-free Christmas is that we don’t have so many "Dos and Don’ts".
Nobody will call you lazy for getting a plastic flatpack Christmas tree instead of a real one. And that’s precisely what almost every Christmas-celebrating family will do here in the Middle Kingdom.
It might look tacky, and it certainly lacks the delicate sweetness of a real fir tree, but it’s going to save you the trouble of sweeping away needles when January comes.
Or you can be lazier still. Don’t repack your plastic tree after use. Which means everyday can be Christmas. Here in China – that’s just fine.
Story: Christie Lee
Video: Christie Lee & Huang Lan