We know what Christmas is supposed to be about , right? Togetherness , sharing ,remembrance,and celebrating family and friends. Right?!?!
While maybe we have forgotten the deeper meaning of Christmas beyond , gasp, presents! Here in China we don’t learn about what Christmas is really about. It seems like the whole Christmas thing was culturally copied and lifted from the Western world without much analyses beyond the surface.
I see Santa Claus in the shopping mall , reindeer horn wearing workers , gigantic gaudy crystal laden Christmas trees in the streets, clubs have Santa Claus greeters, and frosty the snowman beckons people to come into his restaurant.
The basic message is the same. CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME.
Maybe the Western world needs to stop thinking about presents and set a better example for everyone else. Back to the roots people!
However China does have an entire week-long festival dedicated to family. Yes, that’s right , an entire week of eating, hongbao (red envelopes with cash), and fireworks! The upcoming Chinese New Year features the world’s largest annual migration of humans as millions of sons, daughters , husbands , wives, etc swarm by the millions back to their hometowns to spend time with family. Some of these people only get to see family this time of the year.
I’ve been teaching the kindergarten kids Christmas songs and vocabulary all month-long and on Friday the 23rd I got to dress up in a Santa Suit and deliver presents in the school. I learned one thing ; Santa suits are damned hot. I have some empathy for those mall Santas.
Now on a more personal note, I had a pretty swell Christmas myself. Got to celebrate with three people who have never celebrated it before. My roommate is Jewish, so that explains that, and both our girlfriends are Chinese and they see the decorations every year but have never actively celebrated. We ghetto-wrapped some presents the night before (the grocery store ran out of a limited supply of wrapping paper) and the day started with my roommate pounding on the door excited to open presents. Hahaha like me when I was 6 years old. We tore into the gifts and a merry time was had by all.
After this I got to engage in a little Skype action with some good friends and then it was time for food!
Went out for a traditional Christmas lunch of spicy stuffed fish wrapped and roasted in banana leaves , traditional lemongrass beef , north pole style stir-fried chicken with plantain flowers , all topped off with some tamarind juice. Yummy authentic Christmas Yunnan fare. Spicy Xmas style.
This was followed up by some cold bike riding errands and then back to an evening Skype chat with the family. Good times y’all!
Oh yea one other thing , tons of restaurants in Shanghai had Christmas dinner offerings. Some had really offerings but they are all so expensive. Think in the range of 300-800 Rmb (~ $50-120). Places were even offering totally non-Christmas related Christmas meals. 3 course Thai meal featuring chicken satay , crab curry, and Tom Yum soup ,anyone? Sushi blast?
Alright, I’ll leave ya with some photos. (Keeping with the consumerist theme. It’s all our presents! Wooo hooo!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.