Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas with Chinese Characteristics

I hope you all had a good Xmas and didn't eat or drink too much. Now it's back to the gym to get my body back into shape.

I came across this article by Huang Hung (Ms) from today's 'China Daily'. I thought is was a quite interesting view on cross-cultural influences in modern China, and share it with you here.

"We can turn anything, holy or unholy, into something just Chinese. Whiskey with green tea, red wine with sprite, rice hamburgers, Peking Duck tortillas - you name it, we localize it. There are still people in China who are concerned that we might lose our own traditions by celebrating Western holidays. Several years ago, this debate was quite real. I was DJ-ing a radio program and we were told not to mention Western holidays on air. On the other hand, retailers were already enjoying huge shopping sprees around Christmas time.

But honestly, the conservatives were all worked up about nothing. They should have had great faith in the Chinese ability to localize everything. Let me just describe to you how Western holidays are celebrated here, and you will know what I mean.

First of all, "silent night" is anything but silent. In fact, it is the noisiest night in the bars and discos. The Chinese have really turned Christmas Eve into a wild party night for the young. It just happens that Christmas comes around when final exams end for college and high school students. What better way to unwind after all that exam tension than to dance the night away. I assure you the holiness of the holy night is a bit lost here.

I noticed this year that Chinese were picking up Thanksgiving as well. But without the turkey and the immigrants. What we do on Thanksgiving is send text messages to each other on the cell phone. I counted, I got 32 messages, reminding me to be thankful. None of them thanked me for anything, however. I did not send any out. Call me Americanized, I still want my turkey (with lots of stuffing) and my pumpkin pie.

The most ridiculous Western holiday celebrated here, however, is Valentine's Day. First of all, the Chinese translation is "Lover's Day". I dare say, it is the worst day of the year for married man with a mistress. Who are they going to spend it with? The ex-lover, now wife? Or the new lover, ex-secretary? Agony descends on a lot of men with very little hair and a very big belly. Not the lovey-dovey romantic picture in your mind, I bet. But people, particularly women here, take Valentine's Day very seriously. As a result, it is absolutely good business if you own a restaurant or a flower shop; this is THE day of the year that you will move a lot of merchandise.

I am glad the debate about Chinese celebrating Western holidays has kind of died on its own. I've always been jealous of Hong Kong people. They get both Western and Chinese holidays, don't they? At this point, I think we just want more holidays."

I also hope you get more holidays so you can come and see the modern (and ancient) China with your own eyes.

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