Shengdan kuaile! 圣诞快乐 – Happy Christmas!


Glad tidings of comfort and joy to  one and all who are reading this!

In China Christmas is a non-event, apart from the fact that in Beijing (and probably Shanghai, Chengdu etc) we have seen Xmas lights/trees/Santa decals etc. etc for weeks and weeks because there is a view that this is the western thing to do – big it up, but without any concept of what it is about.  But these days what IS it about? This day is, after all,  an artificial construct, selected in 350 AD, by Pope Julius 1 to represent the date of Christ’s birth

chinese-nativity-sceneFor years people in the west have been moaning on about how Christmas has become too ‘secular’, too ‘commercial’, has ‘lost touch with its religious roots’ and what the ‘true’ meaning of the festival is.  Certainly when one sees TV footage of crowds cramming into the shopping malls  in the days before Christmas, hell-bent on buying anything and everything, one is inclined to agree.

And yet, and yet …on Christmas Day a wonderful silence and peace decends over towns and cities – the clamour of commerce stills, and there is a moment or two when one can hear the ‘still, small voice of calm’ even as one  is frantically shoving the turkey into the oven, dealing with ancient Aunt Gertrude,  or stopping two five-year olds squabbling over their gifts.   Christmas is so many things – a time for families to reconnect, a frighteningly lonely day where some feel that they are totally forgotten, an orgy of food and drink, a  magical time for small children, a sentimental time of remembrance for the older generations, a time where women up and down the land are close to exhaustion from fulfilling all the expectations of their nearest and dearest.

Whether one has any religious convictions or not, would we be without this special day? I don’t think so.  Apart from anything else, it provides a full-stop to the year.

Chairman SantaThis particular Christmas, seasoned ‘China watchers’ will be more alert than ever trying to decipher which way the Middle Kingdom will go in the future.  Why? you may ask.

Well the reason is that on Boxing Day (British terminology for 26th December) it will be the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth.  Will the current government roll out the red carpet (so-to-speak) and hold big ceremonies to commemorate the event?…or will it all be something of a damp squib.  We all wait to see.

About herschelian

Recently moved to Beijing from London - its all new to me! Trying to learn Chinese, and what makes this city tick.
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3 Responses to Shengdan kuaile! 圣诞快乐 – Happy Christmas!

  1. tony@tonypeake.com. says:

    Dear Jo

    As ever, you hit the nail on the head.

    Much love from La Gomera, where Christmas isn’t a big things either.

    T&ampP

  2. Interesting blog. Christmas means many things to many people but if you really delve back in time its a pagan festival celebrating the winter solstice on 21st December aka the return of the sun. In ancient times it was always about gatherings of people and families and great feasts. Trust the church to hijack the most popular festival of “pre” christian times and use it for their own ends. In Europe there isnt even an agreement on the exact day of Christmas, I know its different in Spain and I think both Holland and Russia celebrate on days other than Dec 25th. In this mad and crazy world it does no harm to have one peaceful day when the shops are shut and we all try to be kind to one another. Peace on earth and goodwill to all men. Amen to that!

    • herschelian says:

      BFL (if I may abbreviate your name) you are so right. It is basically a pagan festival, the early church was not stupid and linked the birth of Christ to a popular ancient feast time which was pretty smart of them when you think about it. The Greek and Russian Orthodox churches go their own way with the date, as you would expect. But try telling that to a dyed-in-the-wool evangelical bible-bashing American fundamentalist and you’ll get your block knocked off! As far as they are concerned the date is the literal truth, and God-forbid a half heathen like myself should say otherwise!!

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