Have Yourself A Very Chinese Christmas
After years of making every Christmas toy and decoration in the world, China gets into Christmas spirit (来源：英语杂志 http://www.EnglishCN.com)
By Summer Block Kumar
Date posted: December 24, 2007
CHRISTMAS HAS EXPLODED IN SHANGHAI. It’s everywhere—from the animatronic Santas doing a jerky can-can at Super Brand Mall to the swarm of children dressed as elves cavorting through Xujiahui.
I spent the holidays at home in China last year, and I am quite certain there was nothing like this back in 2006. Sure, the big shopping compounds like Plaza 66 and Xintiandi have put up lights and trees in the past, and hotels like the Shangri-la and the Ritz Carlton hosted eggnog and singing children, but this city-wide onslaught is totally new.
Last year you could buy a Santa hat, a cup of mulled wine, or a roll of gift wrap. This year, you can buy a traditional Christmas cake, or a Douglas fir delivered to your door, straight from Oregon. If Oregon isn’t sophisticated enough for you, spring for the Royal Fir Christmas Selection and your tree arrives fresh and limber (with free tree stand!) from the ecologically sustainable estate of HRH Prince Joachim of Denmark. You can dine on Christmas delicacies anywhere in town, from the lavish spread at the Hyatt to the set menu at Applebee’s (yes, Applebee’s!).
Of course, China gets a lot of it wrong, an extra holiday present for all the Chinglish collectors out there. Santa is always playing a saxophone, or wearing strawberries in his hair. And somehow, someone got the idea that Christmas’ canonical colors are blue and white. Now blue, white, and silver are the colors of the season (you can even buy the book “Decorating for Christmas in Blue and Silver” to help you along). Where is lucky red? At least it’s a chance for Hanukkah to escape American after-thought menorah tokenism and really shine.
For many, “Western New Year” (as Christmas is often considered) is a grab-bag of all things Western, even if the result looks like a bargain bin clip-art CD. My neighborhood supermarket is displaying a “Merry Christmas” mural depicting a fairy with a birthday cake, a stork with a bundled baby, and a fish. My sister presented me with a frosty gingerbread Christmas tree decorated with Hello Kitty heads, dog bones, and tiny fish. (Someone must have figured out that fish are a Christian symbol.)
The popularity of Christmas here is not surprising given the twin Asian loves of extravagant multimedia lighting displays and burdensome obligatory gift-giving. But to a Westerner, the festivities can seem depressingly hollow. Christmas here is a party holiday, a young person’s drinking and clubbing holiday, and Christmas Eve more likely to find you at one popular club’s “Filipina XXX-mas Eve” bash than Midnight Mass. No one goes home to see relatives, no one performs rituals or makes donations. It’s a month-long orgy of drinking, eating, and spending.
While it’s easy to blame China for its rash consumerism or its abuse of holiday spirit, all this new economy is really doing is holding up a mirror to our own Christmas excesses. The most dislocating part of the season is when, after spending all December laughing at the horrible, tacky Chinese Christmas decorations, you suddenly remember what Christmas at home is like: “Haven’t I seen that Santa with a saxophone somewhere before? Didn’t we invent that?”
I haven’t seen a stork, a fairy, and a fish hold court at Macy’s, but there are plenty of holiday gaffes throughout the West that are downright grotesque—a quick Google search will find you a porcelain Nativity scene complete with Santa. And I can bet that scene is made in China, now manufacturer of 80 percent of the world’s Christmas ornaments. Holiday spending and splurging may have gotten out of hand, but China is not the only one to blame.