In Western culture, Christmas time - the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, is laden with traditions and festivities. For many, Christmas is about being with family and sharing gifts during the season of Advent. In China, Christmas is celebrated too, but in a totally different way.
The number of Christians in China is growing and Chinese Christians, like their counterparts in the West, will go to church and reflect on the meaning of the season. They will sing songs and enjoy time together with family, as well as sharing gifts. For many Chinese people, however, Christmas is a new concept and does not carry the same significance or traditions as in the West.
Many Chinese over 40 years of age still do not celebrate Christmas, preferring to maintain more traditional ways, but young people are rapidly adopting the celebration of Christmas and it has become very trendy to enjoy all holiday trappings of Christmas. More and more Chinese young people are sharing gifts, having a special Christmas Eve dinner, and hanging out together - singing karaoke together with friends is a particularly popular way that young people get together to celebrate. Another popular tradition that has emerged is to give apples as a gift on Christmas Eve, stemming from the fact that the Chinese name for Christmas Eve sounds similar to the Chinese word for apples. To China's youth, Christmas is about having fun and making time to be with friends.
One reason for the increasing interest in Christmas is a profound desire in young Chinese people to learn about the West. As they are exposed to more Western holidays, young people are adopting the traditions and activities as they see them. Another reason for the increasing attention Christmas is receiving in China is because Chinese businesspeople are seizing the opportunity to create a holiday market in China that previously did not exist.
Stores and shopping malls have starting giving Christmas discounts that last until the New Year. Restaurants, especially Western restaurants, offer elaborate holiday dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and bars have begun organizing Christmas activities to attract holiday revelers. Many shops, restaurants, and karaoke bars start decorating for Christmas in early December, just like in Europe and America. Waiters and waitresses can be found wearing festive holiday outfits, sales people will don a Santa cap, and some stores even have someone dress like Santa Claus to entertain customers!
Walking through the downtown area of a big Chinese city at Christmas, you should not feel surprised to find the Christmas season everywhere - Christmas trees, lights and decorations, Santa Claus, and Christmas songs playing for all to enjoy!