Christmas in Beijing – a 外国人 (wàiguórén – foreigner’s) perspective

We had not lived here long by the time Christmas came round last year, but I don’t remember there being very much in the way of Christmas things about, a few small decorations, but not much else. So this year, we were not expecting too many things to be happening to remind us about Christmas, but we have realised that, in some ways, we were very wrong!

From a commercial side at least, it seems that here in the area where 1 on 1 is, Christmas is a fairly big thing. The first thing that gave us a clue was when various shops started to put some decorations in their windows. Then the supermarkets (超市- short for 超级市场 – well we are studying Chinese after all!) started to sell Christmas decorations and trees. Seeing lots (and I mean lots!) of shop assistants wearing ‘Santa’ hats is something we are finding pretty strange, but perhaps most strange is to hear the music that is played in many of the places we go, that certainly I as a westerner can’t keep myself from humming along to. The songs range from older classic secular Christmas themed songs to modern Christmas themed songs (What I think of as the very British ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas’ being the one I was most surprised by). There are also scores of traditional Christmas Carols (with great lyrics!) to be heard – perhaps even more so than we would have heard in shops at home!

When it comes to personal homes we, unsurprisingly, have not seen much in the way of evidence of Christmas coming. The only obvious Christmas tree we have seen in a home is in that of a Westerner. Speaking to some Chinese friends, some feel that Christmas is important, but for others, they like the excuse to get together with their friends, but beyond that it is not important. We have already been to two Christmas parties, with a lot of Chinese friends there, and have another one to go to yet, so this does seem to be true!