Chinese Urbanites Celebrate Christmas Featuring Eastern, Western Styles

Church in Guangzhou

Christmas Eve in Beijing was frosty minus-10 degrees Celsius, but a queue stretching for 100 meters stood patiently outside a church, waiting for permission to get into the sanctuary.

Sources with south China's Guangdong province said that in Dongshan Church, in the capital city Guangzhou, five choirs made up of 200 people sang Christmas carols in turns till 10 p.m. Monday.

Close to 3,000 people came to the church, which was packed full with people standing in the aisles.

Drama Beijing

Also on Christmas Eve, many young people in Beijing attended a drama named after a popular song published on the Internet. Restaurants neighboring the theater which usually close at 9 p.m. stayed till midnight.

Karaoke bars were also filled with people. Li Yan, a news service employee, said, "We couldn't get a reservation until 4 or 5 a.m. the next morning because we waited too long to book a room."

Businessmen in Nanjing

Business people are making the best of the Christmas holiday. In Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu province, big hotels are giving out Christmas meal tickets.

Department stores and supermarkets are offering special promotions. Travel agencies are holding Christmas parties on board ships. Even hospitals are promising preferential prices for patients who come to see doctors at Christmas.

Chinese-style Santa Claus

China's post offices have issued stamped postcards with an image of a Chinese-style Santa Claus. These postcards can be used in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, and be sent to other countries.

The cards are the first of the kind in Chinese postal history.

College and high school students are exchanging Christmas cards and presents.

Better-off Life

An ATM machine near the gate of Southeast University in Nanjing registered withdrawals of 70,000 yuan (some US$ 8,484) on Monday, 30,000 yuan more than usual.

And like so many of their western counterparts, some Chinese students said it is more economical to send e-cards to friends and family. Zhao Xiaqiu, a professor at People's University, said, "Chinese celebrating Christmas doesn't mean that they know all about the western Christmas spirit. It's only that we are better-off now, and need an excuse to gather around with friends and enjoy ourselves."

Christmas Atmosphere in China

"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 on December 25.

Many well-known hotels, restaurants and bars were fully booked for Christmas Eve days ago.

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.

( People's Daily December 26, 2001)