Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Time is Here Again

It's the Holiday Season, which doesn't have the same meaning in Shanghai. Christmas isn't a popular Chinese Holiday, for completely obvious reasons. While that doesn't come as an intellectual surprise, it still feels strange to me - living in the US, it's easy to associate the time of the year to the Holiday, even if you don't think about it or celebrate it yourself. Now, it comes across so odd, if I step out of my apartment and look around my large apartment complex, I don't see a single green-and-red bunting.

Shanghai does have a very very small Christian population - this historic foreigner church in the downtown isn't open for business anymore, but keeps a few Christmas decorations in front. Christmas Day goes by characters meaning "Saint's Birth Holiday," which seems like a Christ reference, but it sounds kind of like a Chinese pronunciation of Santa, "Shung-dawn". I'm not sure which it comes from, and neither are the people I've talked to about it.

I don't think Christmas registers much with the average lower-class Shanghai resident. However Christmas does have a place as a minor holiday, especially in the wealthier or more Westernized areas. People here don't celebrate it in the Western sense of meeting with their family and giving presents and singing Carols and all that, but some places do try to get a festive Christmas look to them. The first place to put up Christmas decorations, and the only place to play Christmas Carols, has been the Shanghai branches of Western Chains, such as this Starbuck's:

But truth be told, it wasn't so much. Just two or three weeks before Christmas, these foreign chains were about the only place to see evidence of Christmas. Carrefour, a French chain, also had a large selection of Christmas decorations. Even for such a massive store, the Christmas display is pretty large. By contrast, the picture on the left shows the complete selection of Christmas decorations available near my apartment.

I've read that in the US, some retailers make 75% of their revenue in the month before XMas. So the large Chinese malls are quick to get in on that - if perhaps not as quick as the US malls are. While the malls now have very nice XMas displays, they didn't get them up until a week or two before XMas. For instance this massive tree was being put up on December 14th! The woody-looking outside decoration is artfully arranged reindeer antlers, kind of strange.

And while shops and malls aren't dominated by Christmas decorations even now, a lot of the shops do have a Santa Claus here or there, or maybe a tree, ribbons, tinsel, etc. Some stores get into the gimmick more than others - this fruit juice store (which to be honest is much much better than any juice place I knew of in the US) had all their employees wearing Santa hats.

Chinese New Year's happens a month or two after XMas, and so I think Christmas decorations are popular because they're a nice lead-up - I've heard a lot of the XMas decorations will stay until then. Holiday cards are also somewhat popular, maybe you give it to somebody in your office as a nice gesture, during the office Christmas Karaoke Party. Many of the cards are quite beautiful, and on the art-supply street of Fuzhou Lu, you'll see one store after another selling them. Notice that they're dominated by the color red, with some yellow as well - green is not much to be found. It's the Chinese Holiday colors, rather than the Western.

A White Christmas? I've never suffered through one, and won't have to this year either, although it has been extremely cold lately. Anyway I'm not sure on my plans but maybe I'll go to an Indonesian Church with my roommate. Merry XMas to all my family and friends reading this, wish I could be there with y'all! And fly over here for the New Year's - if Shanghai does Christmas only partway, it skips over the Western New Year's completely!

1 comment:

Lawgal said...

hey, i have one question. do u build ur blog in shanghai? i have one too. however, my friend in shanghai told me she cannot open it. by any chance, u know why?