The Old Christmas Man is Coming to Town

It’s that time of year again! I’ve been planning for some time about when’s the best time to write a Christmas article, as the city centre decided it was Christmas around October. This week is the start of the real Christmas I think – this is when you can say that next week (gulp) is Christmas itself.

That will bring up different emotions in different people. Some excitement, maybe some panic – but China takes a very careful view on Christmas. The word for Christmas itself translates very as the very politically correct ‘Day of Saint’s Birth’. Less than 1% of China’s population is Christian, so few people view it as a religious festival. Some Chinese people warn against all areas of Chinese culture being ‘contaminated’ by Americanisms from everything from Christmas to McDonalds.

Despite careful correctness on the nature of Christmas, some things are just looked down on in downright disgust. Candy canes, a relatively cute name in English, gets translated to the scathing ‘sugar crutch’. This withering attitude to sugar reminds me of the response to the pitch of a Chinese version of Bake Off (I’m sorry for mentioning it, I really am) – ‘we don’t have programmes that make you fat’.

The scornful attitude to Christmas that we’ve seen so far suddenly gets destroyed when you hear the translations of Chinese Christmas carols – my personal favourite being ‘ding ding dang’ (Jingle Bells – look it up on YouTube, it’s hilarious). The commerciality of Christmas is embraced rather than denied in China, and there’s an expectation that your generous gift will come with a ‘Made in China’ tag.

It’s been nearly three months since The First Step was published in September, and what a three months it has been. This blog has gone from some funny oddities in One, Two, Three, What?! to some pretty deep cultural explorations via tea. This may or may not be it for 2016, but if it is, I’ll see you in the New Year with some more expeditions up the Great Wall of Chinese (there are some great puns planned – full blog posts based around them. It’s going to be great).


Things I’ve learned this week:

  • Christmas could be contaminating Chinese culture – but reindeer and presents seems a pretty good way to go on the contamination front
  • Ah, those Westerners. Scoffing down those crutches of sugar (is there too much truth here?)
  • China’s serious attitude to Christmas is shattered with three syllables. Ding ding dang. Cmon guys.

There may or may not be a post in the next few weeks, so make sure you subscribe on the homepage to be notified of the next post. In the meantime, make sure to share this post with your friends, and have a great Christmas!

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