Even though China is a thoroughly secular country, and thus does not celebrate Christmas (it’s a regular workday), over the years Christmas as a commercial festival has become quite popular. Shops are festooned with Christmas decorations, Santa hats abound, and Christmas music wafts through the malls.
The one thing missing, of course, is any sign of baby Jesus, which is partly due to political sensitivities and partly because the Chinese are borrowing their Christmas celebrations mainly from Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Not surprisingly, beyond the consumer trappings, people don’t seem to have a clue what they’re celebrating or why. A few years back I was doing some last minute shopping in a Beijing department store on Christmas Eve, or what is sometimes referred to as “The Silent Night.” Standing next to me at a counter were two young men, also making some purchases. “Joy to the World” was playing in the background as I overheard one man say to the other: “I don’t even know what Christmas is. All I know is that if I don’t buy my wife a present, she’ll be angry with me.”
Things have tightened in recent years, and the celebrations scaled back; however, the music of Christmas remains popular.
If you’d like to get into the Christmas spirit in Chinese, check out the blog SinoSplice for a selection of mp3 files of Christmas songs in Chinese that you can stream or download.
In addition to being great language learning tools, it’s a fun playlist to use to help us get into the Christmas spirit!
Merry Christmas or should I say 圣诞节快乐!
Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio
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