中文       Deutsch       Français       日本語
Search      Subscribe
Home    Nation    World    Business    Opinion    Lifestyle    China Focus    ChinAfrica    Multimedia    Columnists    Documents    Special Reports
Lifestyle
On Holiday From 'the Holidays'
Christmas has brought different feelings in China
By Isabel Schwartz | NO. 51 DECEMBER 20, 2018
(LI SHIGONG)

Christmas always brings conflicting feelings for me—a sense of nostalgia for home and yet disdain for its now rampant commercialism.

I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas, and Beijing made it easier to escape the holiday stress, simply because there were no expectations, emotional or material-wise. "There is a lot of sweetness in Christmas, and here in Beijing, I can appreciate its being because the wrappings are gone," I wrote in a Christmas card to my sister during my first year in Beijing.

I also received a Christmas card from dear family friends. "Christmas is a time of traditions and memories. But, it is also a time of love and friendship. As you celebrate a half a world away we know that old traditions and new friendships will find a place in your heart."

Meanwhile, Christmas, to most Beijingers, was only about some decorations and a little partying with no emotional involvement.

I attempted to get into the Christmas spirit by stringing some lights on some decorative twigs in my apartment as well as adding some baubles. When I offered our security guard a box of chocolates, he hid in the guardhouse.

I also bought some China-themed gifts for my family, as well as some gifts for my Chinese friends and colleagues. I found gifts to be an effective way of getting to know them a little better and breaking down the sometimes steely façade.

Yet despite being "on holiday" from the Holidays, I couldn't completely free myself from the shackles of Christmas stress. To my dismay, I discovered that the tiny tubes of wrapping paper I had bought only contained enough paper to wrap one gift each.

I also caused a bit of a public spectacle at the post office with all my parcels and envelopes. The woman standing next to me took great interest in what I was writing on my envelopes. Indeed, in China, I sometimes feel like an exotic angelfish in a tank.

My first Christmas in Beijing was surreal. The waiters and waitresses wearing antlers or Santa Claus hats and office Christmas lunches did make me feel a little closer to home.

A Chinese friend invited me to spend Christmas Eve in a massage parlor which looked like a Roman temple with Latin inscriptions on its façade—not quite the American-style Christmas I was used to. Inside, there were chandeliers and a plastic Christmas tree bogged down with decorations. Several women in Santa Claus caps and fur-lined shawls were stationed at the entrance.

After the massage session, my friend and I watched a live coverage of the variety show going on downstairs. The show featured lots of slapstick; a man dressed as the Monkey King, girls in Santa caps and miniskirts singing shrilly, and my masseur now moonlighting as an acrobat, doing a balancing act with a porcelain flower pot.

Over the years in China, I have come to enjoy the unique quirks that come with the festive season in China. Last Christmas, my Chinese boyfriend and I traveled to his hometown in rural northwest China. When we arrived at the train station, we were greeted with a lot of stares because of the Santa Claus caps we were wearing, and my boyfriend's father was curious what the caps were about, so I tried to explain the concept of Santa Claus to him. I think he understood, and my gifts for the family were gleefully unwrapped.

I have finally made peace with my feelings for the holidays, and Santa was the key to it all: a bearer of gifts and goodwill, and a concept that could be universally understood. In my native United States, it just happened to be personified by a jolly old man with a beard. Yes, there is a Santa Claus!

The author is an American working in Beijing

Copyedited by Craig Crowther

Comments to dingying@bjreview.com

About Us    |    Contact Us    |    Advertise with Us    |    Subscribe
Partners: China.org.cn   |   China Today   |   China Pictorial   |   People's Daily Online   |   Women of China   |   Xinhua News Agency   |   China Daily
CGTN   |   China Tibet Online   |   China Radio International   |   Beijing Today   |   gb times   |   China Job.com   |   Eastday   |   CCN
Copyright Beijing Review All rights reserved 京ICP备08005356号 京公网安备110102005860号
Print
Chinese Dictionary: