I got to celebrate my first Christmas in China, but, after two Christmases in Korea, I wanted to do it more the way I grew up celebrating. So, I bought a Christmas tree and decorated it, spent a week or two before Christmas listening to Christmas music, and I prepared lots of sweet treats. I even bought a toaster oven which is the closest thing I’ve had to a real oven in over two years. Needless to say, I went a little baking crazy. On Christmas Day I even prepared Western style Christmas food. Well, tried. Anyway, the point is that I’m not sure I can really say I’ve experienced what a Chinese style Christmas is like, and I’m sure there are different ways people celebrate, or don’t, so I never really could. But, there are some observations I made about the Christmas season in China.
Numbers vary but it is estimated that only somewhere between five to ten percent of the population practice Christianity (which is actually A LOT of people). Also, Christmas is not considered a public holiday. But, it does seem like the Christmas holiday has made a place in China.
What did I see?
- Walking around, I noticed decorations and displays at a couple of small stores but more so at department stores, big business buildings and shopping malls. The level of decoration was definitely nowhere near the amount I would see in America. And, there definitely was not as much Christmas music. I heard a couple of Christmas songs at Carrefour (a big supermarket chain in China that originated in France.) but that was about it. In America, it’s usually blasting everywhere you go and on most radio stations.
- Christmas seems like a holiday more for couples and/or friends rather than family. From what I’ve read, the more common way people celebrate is by having parties with their friends on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Though, I imagine a lot of English academies have Christmas lessons and parties for their students. It is pretty common for schools that focus on English education to celebrate popular Western holidays in one way or another.
- You can find Christmas trees, decorations and candy in China. I found my stuff at Carrefour and Walmart. (Those were the two places I found the stuff I wanted, but I’m sure there are other places as well.) My small Christmas tree was surprisingly cheap, and the decorations were a good price too.
- A lot of bakeries and coffee shops had Christmas themed drinks and treats. I indulged in one or maybe more…
- I did notice sales at stores and online. In China, Christmas does seem like a time for shopping. Companies use holidays to offer sales and discounts, and the customers take advantage. So the commercialization of the holiday definitely reminded me of America, ha.
- And, there are church services people can attend to celebrate the true reason for the holiday.
- Also, while researching how to celebrate Christmas in China, I found that some restaurants and hotels have a western style Christmas meal you can attend. There are also places in bigger cities that have Christmas light displays and Christmas activities.
So, as a foreigner living in China, it was definitely possible for me to find ways to celebrate Christmas in China. I appreciate the Christmas spirit I did find, but I also appreciate that this country is not a predominantly Christian country and Christmas is not a major holiday for many people here. I just wanted to point out some of things that are different about Christmas in America and Christmas in China.
Now you can look at some of my sad attempts at making Christmas treats. They definitely didn’t look like the pictures. I couldn’t find as much baking stuff here, but I worked with what I could find.