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Christmas popularity, profit grows
( 2003-12-24 02:04) (China Daily)

Last night on Christmas Eve, 36-year-old Australian Simon Pollock, a former journalist with Kyodo News in Beijing, said he felt nothing special.

"I have noticed Christmas decorations on buildings, in shops windows and even on the heads of restaurant waitresses,'' he said. "However, it is just another day for me.''

As far as the non-Christian is concerned, Christmas is a good time for family reunion but has no significant meaning with his family far away back in Australia.

Asked to pick one festival he feels is worth celebrating in China, Pollock without hesitation chose Spring Festival, the most important traditional Chinese festival.

"There are so many old and interesting activities, like temple fairs, that it provides a good chance to get to know China and Chinese people,'' he said.

In contrast, many young Chinese in Beijing have geared up for something fancy and special during the week or so that has become known as the Christmas holiday season.

Xu Meng, 26, an employee of an international software company, chose to have a facial and began shopping a week ahead of a company Christmas Party yesterday.

"Every woman in the company wants to be the most attractive at the party, attended by almost everybody from the boss to the interns,'' she said, smiling.

"Besides, to shop for dozens of people is no easy task.''

Among many other ordinary people in Beijing, Christmas is well-known.

Zhang Ming, a taxi driver in his 40s, said he is glad to have more than one occasion to celebrate with his family, now that he has a bigger wallet.

Others have observed some seemingly contradictory trends.

"The interesting phenomenon is that foreigners in Beijing are more obsessed with local festivals, while Chinese celebrate foreign festivals,'' said Zhang Xueyuan, a Beijing Municipal Statistics Bureau official. "It indicates Beijing on its way to be an international metropolis.''

But of course, not all Chinese are interested in Christmas.

While all fancy urban restaurants filled up with young people yesterday evening, many older folks found their living room couches just as attractive -- away from all the holiday hulaballo.

Yu Wenkai, general manager of Wuxi Compressor Co Ltd in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, thought the younger generation likes Christmas mainly because of curiosity and counterculture psychology.

"And shops, restaurants and recreational places have done a lot to build up the Christmas atmosphere,'' Yu said, noting one can't travel any place without hearing Christmas carols or seeing the images of Santa Claus pushing merchandise.

Although it might has much to do with the Spring Festival following in usually in no more than two months, Zhang said Christmas has become one most important profit seasons in Chinese cities.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the retail turnover experienced last December was 18 per cent more than that of the previous month and amounted to 440.4 billion yuan (US$53.2 billion).

Zhu Ziyi, vice-president with the China Performing Arts Agency, admitted that the agency waited especially until the middle December to stage their "Reverie,'' a ground-breaking acrobatics spectacular.

"We know people are willing to pay for recreation, especially expensive performing masterpieces, around Christmas, the start of the Festival Season (Christmas is always followed by the New Year's Day and the Spring Festival),'' he said.

"The market success of the play has proved our wait worthwhile.''

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