Touching only briefly on Santa’s sweatshops and the kitschy, but endearing (when it comes to Christmas, it’s all good), ways China celebrates Christmas, The Atlantic teaches us about the Chinese spirit of Christmas with a look at how overseas students returning home for the winter holiday have influenced the holiday, why and how people celebrate the holiday, and what it means to some of the 100 million Christians in China. The Economist gives us the basics:
“Family reunions are not part of Christmas tradition in China; for most people it is a chance to enjoy public displays of lights, and, for a growing number of younger Chinese, to exchange gifts with colleagues and friends (China’s home-grown festivals are not so centred around gift-giving). As elsewhere, Christmas in China is a merry time to shop.”
Fenggang Yang (杨凤岗 / 楊鳳崗), Professor of Sociology and Director of Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University says, “Many Chinese have become so much in tune with globalization that they don’t really care whether this is Western or Chinese,” there are scrooges that follow the Central Government’s call to defend China against Western influence and see Christmas as a Western intrusion on Chinese culture. University students in Changsha publicly called for a boycott of the holiday. At the Modern College at Northwest University (西北大学 / 西北大學), students were confined to campus grounds and required to watch a documentary on traditional culture. and requiring them to watch a documentary on traditional culture. In Wenzhou, where churches were demolished earlier this year, Christmas activities were banned from schools. (In solidarity, 800 Christians from Wenzhou now living in the New York City area gathered in Flushing for the first Wenzhou Christmas Banquet)
Christmas was banned in the 60s and 70s, but these incidents are probably more the work of single dogs who didn’t get apples from anybody last year. In an editorial, Global Times (环球时报 / 寰球時報), a paper published by People’s Daily (人民日报 / 人民日報), recognizes the concern but believes Christmas to be a secular holiday that promotes relaxation, good times, and romance and does not detract from Chinese festivals. The editorial asks whether Chinese youth has been changed by Christmas or if Christmas is transformed by Chinese youth and whether Chinese traditions can learn from current trends. Shanghaiist reports that “Professor Zhang Ming of Renmin University of China says that although he never celebrates Christmas, it’s unacceptable and illegal for anyone to force other people not celebrate it. Universities do not have the right to stop its students from going out and celebrating.”
President Xi probably agrees.
What China really should be worried about is Christmas revelers trashing cities and subversive Christmas carols catching on in Hong Kong.
Lead image via Julien GONG Min’s Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons