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Christmas dinner
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As the bells start jingling and the drums start pa-rum-pum-pumming, most importantly, everyone gets a-egg-nog-nogging (and inventing strange words to get in the festive mood).


Christmas is a still relatively new concept to this city and the true essence of the holiday is somewhat lost in translation. The smells of Christmas goodies are still missing, replaced instead by the stench of rampant marketing and commercialization; the sound of caroling and joyous praise drowned out by cash registers ringing.


Such cynicism is hardly limited to Shanghai - all round the world the original meaning of Christmas is being sold down the swanny in favor of money-making gift hampers and ostentatious gifts (nothing says the joy of giving quite like expensive jewelry).


It is hard not to be bitter. Reports show that the holiday season leads to great stress and increased depression for individuals having to cope with such debilitating conditions as Seasonal Affective Disorder and the Oh-God-I'm-Alone-Yet-Again syndrome. For those who do have a good time depression sets in when the first pile of bills come in.


Holiday survival tips entail that no one gets left alone. December 25 survivors should gather in groups to talk about fluffy, happy things, instead of whining about not seeing family or basking in the sun somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. Copious amounts of alcohol can help to a degree, but if the company Xmas party has taught us anything it is that random coupling is a clear and present danger.


A big hearty meal is never amiss come mistletoe time. Christmas gluttony is a sin that can be absolved once the New Year celebrations are done and dusted, so feel free to tuck in to the myriad goodies that have somehow come to be associated with the season (and why not too? Turkey is infinitely preferable to bales of hay).


T8 is considered one of the most modern establishments in the city, but General Manager Walter Zahner is taking the holiday back to its roots on Christmas Eve.


The premises will come alive with the sound of carols and be awash in candle light as diners enjoy a traditional meal featuring dishes from around the world. The first sitting is from 6pm to 8:30pm, with four courses for 688 yuan (US$93). Second sitting starts at 9pm and goes on to midnight, with the same four course deal but with an additional six course and a glass of champagne option at 988 yuan.


HFZ Gourmet and Lounge is also offering two choices. Dinner at the sixth floor brasserie and lounge is 528 yuan for four courses, with oysters, foie gras and turkey to send revelers salivating. Upstairs at On 8 Le Gourmet is the typical fine dining we have come to expect from the Shaanxi Road venue.


With seven courses for 728 yuan, diners can enjoy a luxurious meal without breaking the bank.


New Julu Road restaurant Zoco has had rave reviews as of late, and will offer a six course tapas menu and a glass of Freixenet cava for 398 yuan. Chef Mario will be on hand to serve up a delightful meal with his modern touches.


Round the corner, stalwart Mesa is focusing on Christmas lunch this year, with a sumptuous buffet spread to enjoy. Typical Christmas treats will be on offer, with roast turkey crown, poached ballotine of fruit stuffed leg, homemade gravy and cranberry sauce and mini-pies to complement the heavier dishes. Rounding up the feast are mini steamed Christmas puddings with brandy custard.


The buffet is 350 yuan for adults, while kids under 12 get to eat and chat with Santa for 100 yuan. Ayis will also be on standby to watch over the little ones as mummy and daddy eat to their heart's content.


(Shanghai Daily December 23, 2007)

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