"For Chinese people, Christmas is more an opportunity to go out with their families and friends than a time for religious reflection," said Yang Hong, a young Beijing office employee, who planned to go to a bar with her colleagues last night.
A Horizon Research survey indicates that Yang is not unusual.
Many well-known hotels, restaurants and bars were fully booked for Christmas Eve days ago.
"Our hotel has three ticket prices for the Christmas Eve Party - 688 yuan (US$82.89), 998 yuan (US$119.04) and 1,500 yuan (US$180.72). All of them were sold three days before Christmas, much earlier than last year," said Fan Yingying with Beijing Hotel.
The Hard Rock Cafe prepared a special night designed to draw the young crowd.
Many others like to go shopping on Christmas Eve, getting in the holiday mood on the one hand and picking up goods on sale on the other.
Brilliantly illuminated trees and festively decorated store windows were everywhere in the city, making shopping malls and supermarkets more colourful and lively.
Sales are the biggest attraction for customers. "I always buy more things at Christmas and New Year than at other times, because many shops offer significant discounts," said a teacher who was choosing Christmas gifts in Carrefour.
On university campuses, the festival atmosphere was even stronger. Beautiful Christmas trees, gifts, cards and posters announcing parties were to be seen everywhere. Students planned their activities long before Christmas. Still others swarmed to churches to spend their Christmas Eve.
The Catholic church on bustling Wangfujing Street in the city's downtown area, with a beautiful Christmas tree at its door, was already surrounded by hundreds of people at 7 pm. The ceremony, however, was slated for 9:30 pm. Most were young people, lovers and students.
Foreigners in Beijing, on the other hand, tend to go to bars or held small parties at home on Christmas Eve.
A young man from Canada said: "The Christmas atmosphere here in Beijing is great but completely different from what is going on in my hometown."
(China Daily December 25, 2001)