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Christmas in China brings foreigners at home
Updated: 2004-12-25 00:04

Christmas, a religious holiday originated in the West, is prevailing in China where only 1.15 percent of Chinese are Christians.

"Although we are far from our country but we feel at home here, because Beijing is filled with festival atmosphere." said William Lindesay, an American who works for the protection work for the Great Wall.

In the lobby of Oriental Plaza in Wangfujing Street, downtown Beijing, a beer-bottle Christmas tree, about eight-meter tall and weighing seven tons, is decorated with dazzling lights and gift boxes.

Such a tree would have been seen as an exaggerated and bizarre ornament in the past. In today's Beijing, however, smiling Santa Clauses, colorful Christmas stockings, trees and slogans with " Merry Christmas" are everywhere. "Jingle Bells" resounds in many of the metropolis' shopping malls.

Angela Smith, an Italian student in the Capital Economic and Trade University, marveled at the city's festival atmosphere. " Beijing's Christmas is as bustling as that in my hometown," she exclaimed.

Rui Wa, a seller of Christmas gifts and ornaments in her 40s, said she purchased 1,000 new-style Christmas trees from Hongkong in early November and the stock is running low.

The revolving tree she mentioned costs 399 yuan (48.2 US dollars). It is an ordinary one among numerous Christmas products she sells.

Decades ago, Christmas in China was only an extravagant festival celebrated only among a few young people in fashion. But today, it is becoming an important day for increasing urbanites.

"Christmas has exceeded its original religious connotation and spreads to every country," said Lindesay. "It is a world festival, and a season of spreading love and warmth."

In the memory of Jim, his ten-year-old son, every Christmas he had is in Beijing. "When Christmas Eve comes, some Chinese kids and I will play games and sing songs, and spend happy moment together."

Lindesay chose a Santa Clause for his 10-year-old son Jim as Christmas gift. "I will put it in a stocking, and hang it on the side of his bed," he said.

Although Lindesay and his family live in China, they keep the traditional way of celebrating Christmas. "We will hold a party with our friends, sit around Christmas tree and eat turkey and cookies."

Until now, Paul Mooney, correspondent of the Newsweek in China, still remembers the first Christmas he spent in China. "That was in 1994. I felt sad and homesick at that moment, because very few people celebrated the day," he said.

"Things have changed a lot now," Mooney said. "We can see Christmas decorations everywhere in downtown Beijing. Even in front of the building I live, there are two big Christmas trees."

In his eyes, Chinese people celebrating Christmas is a result of cultural exchanges and will not affect the traditional Chinese culture. During the season, people can meet friends and have fun together, watch movies and go to the church. They can also learn English and Western religious culture.

"We also like celebrating Chinese traditional spring festival," Mooney said.

Andrew Watson, chief representative of the Ford Foundation, believes two reasons are pushing Christmas popularity in China: first, more and more foreigners rush to China; second, Christmas economy has a role.

According to a survey of the Germany Chamber, most Santa Clauses in the world are made in China. China is becoming the biggest production base for world Christmas gifts.

John Robson and his wife, who are traveling in China, bought bags of Christmas gifts in the Xiushui Street. "The price of such product is three or four times in the United States. We plan to buy some products here and bring them back to our country for family and friends," Robson said, adding that they can save a lot of money.

For young Chinese, they have their own reasons of celebrating Christmas.

"We are not worshipping foreign traditions. In our daily life, we are under great working pressure. We just want to find an excuse to enjoy ourselves," said Ms Lin, a 27-year-old white collar.

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