Writer: Randy Wright
Another Christmas in China is fast approaching, with all its potential for boosting GDP. The holiday has penetrated every corner of the country. Christmas songs started playing in convenience stores and markets in November. Twinkling Christmas trees abound, and cardboard Santas, and reindeer, and elves beckon shoppers to empty their Wechat wallets.
In a Tianjin supermarket last week, I brushed past a full-size robotic Santa Claus and triggered its motion sensor. The white-bearded Jolly Old Elf began to dance and chuckle: "Ho, ho, ho!" What could I do? I took a selfie with him.
The religious overtones of Christmas have long since faded, supplanted by commercialism. But that's OK with me. Apart from wrecking my bank account for the good of society, the holiday provides an opportunity to renew friendships, connect with colleagues, express appreciation and interact with loved ones. These things are often accompanied by gift-giving. If buying them helps the economy, so much the better.
But what really sets Christmas apart is the magic.
Young children innocently believe in magic, and it's a tragedy that so many adults grow out of it. I never did.
At the center of Christmas magic is Santa Claus. Children in America know that one night each year, after they go to sleep, the kindly red-clad elf with the white beard visits in his flying sleigh pulled by reindeer. He leaves gifts — toys, treats and even ordinary necessities, which somehow became more wonderful - in stockings or under Christmas trees, to be discovered in the morning with wide-eyed delight.
Memories of those magical moments linger with me still. They return every quiet Christmas morning when I rise before dawn.
Never mind the cynics who say that Santa should be arrested for breaking into people's houses in the dark, or those who say his flying sleigh should be shot down by the military. Overlook his bad example of being overweight. (His belly "shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly", according to one poem.) Ignore the unlikely logistics of visiting billions of children in a single night. None of that matters.
The magical message of Santa Claus is selfless giving. He embodies unconditional love, which seeks no personal reward. That is the spirit of Christmas.
You say it was really the parents, not Santa, who laid out the gifts while their children were asleep? Think again. Santa Claus is as real as love itself. He transcends logic. And he can miraculously bring joy to China as easily as anywhere else (even if he needs helpers).
Of course, if you stop believing in Santa, he will stop coming - which should be a warning to parents everywhere who think they bought the gifts. You can get them free if you simply believe. If you don't, you're doomed to remember paying, which only diminishes the joy.
This is the great lesson of gift-giving. Give, and then forget. Don't seek credit. Don't keep accounts. Liberated from the ledger, a person becomes free to believe in miracles.
Randy Wright joined China Daily as an editor in 2013. His career spans 36 years and 10 newspapers in the United States in senior management, editorial writing and reporting roles. He served as adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona and has consulted for many publications, including the California Bar Journal for lawyers and judges. He is a licensed pilot in the US.
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