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Bells ring for Santa in China
Updated: 2004-12-25 09:31

Christmas is catching on across China, despite the fact that only 1 percent of the country's citizens say they are Christians.

A recent poll among Chinese residents found that 70 percent enjoy the holiday.
While Christmas is largely a religious festival in the West, Chinese people say they enjoy it as a time to get together with family and friends.

Meanwhile, merchants are tuning in to the holiday's marketing potential.

Most of the world's Santa Clauses are now made in China, according to a study by the German Chamber of Commerce. And China is becoming the biggest production base for the world's Christmas gifts.

Rui Wa, who sells Christmas gifts and ornaments in Beijing, said she purchased 1,000 artificial Christmas trees from Hong Kong in early November and is almost sold out.
Newsweek magazine correspondent Paul Mooney remembers the first Christmas he spent in China 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. We can see Christmas decorations everywhere in downtown Beijing."

Smiling Santa Clauses, colorful Christmas stockings, trees and "Merry Christmas" greetings are everywhere. "Jingle Bells" echoes in many of the capital's shopping malls.

"Although we are far from our country we feel at home here, because Beijing is filled with a festive atmosphere," said William Lindesay, an American involved in Great Wall protection work.

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

Wang Xinnong, a sociologist at Tianjin University, is not surprised at the increasing popularity of Christmas.

"It is inevitable that some Western holidays such as Christmas and Valentine's Day have become popular in China," he said.

"As a result of exchanges between various cultures, it is common that some Western customs are becoming accepted by more and more Chinese people.

"Christmas brings us joy and happiness."

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