Last year, I spent Christmas in China. It was the first Christmas I celebrated without family, but with friends. However, it was not a bad experience. The Christmas spirit in China is as alive as in the Western world. The major cities put up Christmas trees with spectacular lighting and everywhere you can hear Christmas music and see Santa.
How the Chinese celebrate Christmas
In China, Christmas is usually not celebrated within the family, but rather among friends. They go out on Christmas Day and enjoy a nice lunch and/or dinner, and have a good time. Presents are usually not a big deal. In my experience, the Chinese don’t give Christmas gifts. However, young people are giving out more and more often small, inexpensive gifts to their friends.
In China, it’s all about the hype. Christmas is regarded a “foreign” event and everything that’s “foreign” for that matter is “cool” and “trendy.” Especially the young Chinese celebrate Christmas more and more. Many “modern” Chinese also put up trees and decorate them. However, they do not put lights outside their houses like in some Western countries.
Santa in China
Christmas is not an official holiday; therefore, schools, offices, restaurants, and especially shops stay open. Many store clerks even change their “uniform” into something more season appropriate. I remember sitting at Pizza Hut with waiters wearing reindeer headbands and Santa outfits.
Santa even started appearing at malls in big Chinese cities where kids can take their picture with him. In Chinese, Santa is called 聖誕老人 (shèng dàn lǎo rén) and in Hong Kong, Santa is called Lan Khoong (Nice Old Father) or Dun Che Lao Ren (Old Man Christmas).
Christmas in Chinese
If you are a foreigner living in China during Christmas and you want to impress your Chinese friends, you need to know the vocab.
Christmas (聖誕節 shèng dàn jié)
Christmas Eve (聖誕夜 shèng dàn yè)
Merry Christmas (聖誕快樂 shèng dàn kuài lè)
Christmas tree (聖誕樹 shèng dàn shù)
Candy cane (拐杖糖 guǎi zhàng táng)
Presents (禮物 shèng dàn lǐ wù)
Stocking (聖誕襪 shèng dàn wà)
Gingerbread house (薑餅屋 jiāng bǐng wū)
Santa Clause (聖誕老人 shèng dàn lǎo rén)
Sleigh (雪橇 xuě qiāo)
Reindeer (麋鹿 mí lù)
Christmas carol (聖誕歌 shèng dàn gē)
Angel (天使 tiān shǐ)
Snowman (雪人 xuě rén)
Christmas decorations in Macau and Guangzhou
Christmas Songs in Chinese
Why not listen to Chinese Christmas carols this season? There are versions of all popular Christmas songs in Chinese. In China, however, people usually prefer the “American” versions, but these Chinese songs are still great to study holiday vocabulary!
Jingle bells: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLBdv5Pi09U
Silent Night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpYpdmLtwFM
O Holy Night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltQFWPqCjUE
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