Do they even celebrate Christmas in China? Visiting “three” China’s, mainland Guangzhou, as well as two more European cities as Macau and Hong Kong, I saw for myself that yes, they do! I expected most of the celebrations taking place in Hong Kong, where Britain had significant influence, yet I felt much more festive in Guangzhou and Macau, although I could see some Christmas trees and decorations in city squares in Hong Kong.
How does it feel when it’s +18°C outside and the weekend before it was 30°C and everyone was wearing shorts? Does it feel festive at all? Although locals say that Christmas isn’t their celebration, it has become fashionable as something popular in Europe and you can surely find places to get Christmas feeling! December is one of the most profitable months of the year for entrepreneurs, so Chinese stores don’t let it pass by, offering various discounts and special offers for locals and tourists alike. Only about 1% of population of China are Christians, so there isn’t much of deep understanding on what Christmas is, most of the impression is formed by store displays and popular movies.
Guangzhou is the third largest city of China and industry has an important role here. Of course, Christmas decorations are also made here! Visiting one of the wholesaler stores I saw Christmas lights for cents, plastic Christmas trees and of course, plenty of decorations for Chinese New Year, including lights, envelopes and other items where gold and red colors dominate. You can also buy fireworks. But, one shouldn’t plan on seeing very bright fireworks at New Year, the pollution is so significant that sometimes air seems like a thick fog.
Visiting China is a great opportunity to buy nice and fun presents for those staying back home. You can get newest movie figurines, design objects and thousands of various accessories, starting from jewelry to phone cases. You can even get funny items where description in English has numerous grammatical errors, T shirts with misspelled words and slogans, as well as clothing that is more likely to fit a European child yet has XL size written on the tag.
One place where you can definitely catch the Christmas mood is the hotels of Guangzhou – the most famous brands do take care to decorate the lobbies in exquisite way – 10 m tall Christmas trees (plastic, of course), gingerbread houses, stockings at the fireplace and you can count on the restaurant menu to definitely have some seasonal offers!
Turns out, there is a new tradition in China, when people give each other apples for Christmas. Why apples? In Chinese “Christmas eve” is ping’an ye (“the safe and calm night”), which sounds a lot like the name for apple píngguŏ (“the safety fruit”) and Chinese use this similarity. This tradition has become so widespread that you can get wrapped apples in the stores with printed good wishes on them. On Christmas apple prices can increase several times! And a new version of tradition has emerged where many Chinese prefer a gadget from Apple!
Macau, the Portuguese daughter in Asia, does not fall behind Guangzhou, as the holiday is well known and is actually a day off. As every year, December marks the Festival of Light in Macau, where the main city square Largo do Senado is illuminated by lights, there is a Christmas tree in the middle and nice wrapped presents and a Santa Claus, who’s name in Chinese is Shen Dan Lao Ren. The streets are full of people, many still doing some last minute shopping.
Although there are many tourists from China, Europeans come for a day trip when visiting Hong Kong, and sweets are especially popular as presents to take back home. Macau is brightly decorated at any time of the year due to the many casinos, for example The Venetian during the festival of light has a colorful holiday animation on its wall, and at the end of it a sticky artificial snowfall covers the ground. This wintery atmosphere is used as a backdrop for photoshoots – wedding and fashion.
Many of the Macau churches hold a mass, so if casinos aren’t your thing, you can always go to church instead!
If you are up to explore not just China during Christmas, be sure to visit Taiwan! Pleasantly cool at 20°C, it will allow you to enjoy culture and use your winter break to the fullest!
*This article was published in the magazine “Sestdiena” special supplement “Holidays”.