For many expat families in China, where and how to spend Christmas is an annual dilemma. Where to get a Christmas tree? Where to buy the turkey or where to get Christmas stockings?
Marie Finn, who is about to spend her second Christmas in Beijing with her family of five, knows the answers.
Marie Finn (second from left) and her children in their home. [Guan Xin/China Daily]
Finn is from France and her husband is from the United States. They have been living in China for almost five years.
The Christmas spirit can be strongly felt in their villa in the Beijing Riviera compound in Shunyi district. American crooner Frank Sinatra's Merry Christmas To You is playing on the stereo and the aroma of fresh baked gingerbread cookies and vanilla candles fill the air.
A nativity set and sparkling Christmas tree further set the festive atmosphere.
"Spending Christmas in China gives you time to relax," she said. "You don't have to worry about buying presents for the whole family and cook food for everyone.
"Of course we try to recreate the cozy Christmas feeling and combine our different homeland traditions."
The Christmas stocking is an American tradition and baking gingerbread cookies is a French, according to Finn.
Although the decorations are Western, you can see where Chinese influence has crept in. Two Christmas stockings are hanging on the fireplace.
Blazoned with names, they are filled with candies and other small presents, but are typically Chinese - red and adorned with oversized flowers.
Even the two pets in the house have their own stockings - one for the cat and one for the former Chinese police dog Tazhu.
Julien, 7, is playing with his best friend while catching a glimpse under the tree to see if his wish list might have been met.
Marie said getting the right presents in Beijing requires some imagination. "You have to be creative when it comes to buying presents for the kids," she said.
"I buy my presents when I am traveling, even if it's in March. You have to buy when you can. You can't afford last-minute Christmas shopping in Beijing."
As her kids are getting older, Finn said everyone wants an iPod.