Christmas is not traditionally celebrated in China but my city, Tianjin, has done its part and if you find yourself wandering through the city centre you will find a good assortment of Christmas trees or ‘Trees of Light’ dotted around, including a bright pink number covered in silver baubles. You can also see many jolly shop assistants sporting festive headwear and numerous buildings decked in lovely Christmas lights. And over the last couple of days I have even spotted two Chinese Father Christmases or shèng dàn lǎo rén (Christmas Old Man) as he is known here.
With less than a week to go until the big day I am beginning to feel rather festive especially opening the doors of my advent calendar every morning without fail. We have also brought the joy of Christmas time to the classroom in a two week long festive lesson plan.
It turns out that Chinese students are big fans of our much beloved Mr Bean, so naturally ‘Merry Christmas Mr Bean’ went down a storm. I was not prepared for the hysteric laughter that followed Mr Bean’s attempt to remove his head from inside his rather enormous Christmas turkey.
Being a huge fan of Christmas (as many are), I can be festive wherever I am but I think what friends and I have missed the most is the wonderful build-up to Christmas that often begins quite early in the UK. This year we have had to seek out the infamous Coca-Cola trucks as well as Mariah Carey’s ever popular Christmas tune on youtube. I have not experienced the hype surrounding this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert or had the opportunity to amble past the beautiful Christmas window displays at Selfridges which is a must at this time of year. I still find it strange that Christmas Day is just an ordinary day for most Chinese people. You do have to make a little more effort to feel in the holiday spirit here but last night I was pleased to overhear a karaoke version of Wham’s classic ‘Last Christmas’ whilst out for dinner.
I am currently compiling a Christmas playlist for the big day containing the usual festive gems, but if I am in the mood for a more sombre, up-to-date, Christmas number I will turn to The Maccabees and their cover of 'Walking in the Air'.
I will miss spending time with family and friends and being 5145 miles away seems even further as the holiday approaches. But this year will be a Christmas like no other. On 24th December fellow expats, Chinese friends and I will be heading to Beijing to experience what the Chinese capital has to offer over the festive period. We are booked into a lovely hostel on the outskirts of Tiananmen Square and the now not so Secret Santa has been drawn. It is odd to think that we will be celebrating Christmas and opening presents a whole eight hours before our loved ones in the UK, but with the option to switch to UK time during the day, we can legitimately prolong the festivities even further. Our day is likely to include an interesting combination of English and Chinese activities including mulled wine making (and drinking), tucking into a world famous Beijing duck, pulling crackers sent from home as well as playing party games and perhaps a little karaoke which is a must for any special occasion in China. The dress code for Christmas Day is officially smart/cash with a tinsel twist (as demonstrated by the lovely young lady below!).
The temperature in the North of China is dropping rapidly so placing a bet on a white Christmas in Beijing could perhaps be a wise move and, more importantly, would make for my first ever snow covered Christmas Day.
MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM CHINATOWN!!
And finally a big thank you to Leah for asking me to be a part of her Expat Christmas project featured in The Telegraph!