Jingle all the way for a Chinese christmas

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 December, 2011, 12:00am


The best example of a mainland adaptation of a foreign festival may be the tradition of eating apples on Christmas Eve.

While many Westerners tuck into turkey for their Christmas dinner, many Chinese send apples to friends as a holiday greeting, because the first character in pingguo (apple) has the same pronunciation as the first character in the Putonghua for Christmas Eve, pinganye.

And the celebration of Christmas has taken on even more Chinese characteristics on the mainland this year.

Wu Kangjun, a student at Beijing Foreign Studies University who has been preparing small gifts for her best friends for several Christmases, said she chose something different this year - Santa Claus dolls dressed up in Chinese tapestry satin and reminiscent of landlords in ancient China.

'I think it's fun to have Chinese and Western styles combined,' she said. 'I found more such Christmas gifts in stores this year.'

On Sina weibo, the mainland's most popular microblogging service, a humorous 35-second clip of Jingle Bells recorded in Peking Opera style has been widely forwarded this month as holiday entertainment.

A photo of a Christmas tree on a street in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, was also applauded by microblog users. The tree was crowned with a dice and strung with mahjong tiles and Chinese lanterns. Chengdu locals are known for their love of mahjong.

A week ago, a huge Christmas tree showed up for the first time on Beijing's Qianmen Street, which is a representation of business and daily life outside the Forbidden City in the Qing dynasty.

Written on both sides of the imperial-yellow gates that lead to the tree, a couplet reads: 'Dragon vein on the street of the heaven, praying for fortune and embracing luck.'

Similar scenes can be found in the busiest areas of other major cities.

In Wuhan's Wuhan Square, a huge, red Chinese lamp is decorated with reindeer, Christmas trees and glass balls.

Deji Plaza in Nanjing has been brightened up by lights in the shape of a red dragon flying over huge white waves. People might think it a celebration of the Lunar New Year - next year is the Year of the Dragon - were it not for the words 'Merry Christmas' that the dragon is encircling.

At a tourist spot that seeks to mimic an ancient business town in the Zhoucun district of Zibo, Shandong, sales of traditional Chinese ornaments have been boosted as people shop for Christmas decorations.

'Some people buy Santa's hats, others buy fish made of printed cloth,' one shop owner told China News Service. 'A young man bought a big Christmas stocking, but he chose a jade bracelet to put inside it as a Christmas gift for his girlfriend.'

People also appear to be showing a preference for Chinese food this festive season, at time when customers usually fill Western restaurants.

In Yangzhou, Jiangsu, more hotels are serving mainly Chinese food for Christmas this year, the Yangzhou Evening News reported.

More restaurants have realised that to attract more people to their Christmas dinners, menus must be localised. Besides Western cuisine such as turkey, goose liver and goose breast, most hotels in Yangzhou will offer a variety of Chinese food, the report said.

On tianya.cn, one of the most popular chat rooms on the mainland, someone asked why Christmas has become a mainland festival.

While some replied that they could not find a reason to celebrate, because Chinese do not share the Christian culture, more said it simply gave people a reason to have fun.

One wrote: 'Despite the origin of Christmas, more people are making it into their own festival. No matter what they do - sending gifts, shopping, partying, or watching movies - it's just a way of releasing the pressure from fast-paced urban life ... it's a day to have fun, so why not in our own ways?'