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Christmas in China: Santa Claus is Coming

Christmas is said to be a time for getting together to put up the tree and enjoy a good meal with family and friends, but what do netizens in China have to say about the holiday? Christmas in China: Is Santa Taking Over the People’s Republic?

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Christmas is said to be a time for getting together to put up the tree and enjoy a good meal with family and friends, but what do netizens in China have to say about the holiday? What’s on Weibo’s Cat Hanson looks into the extent to which the Christmas season is embraced in China.

At this time of year, communities across the world are gearing up to celebrate Christmas. In the United Kingdom, many will be preparing turkey and crackers for the 25th of December. In Russian Orthodox communities, January 7th is the day for sweet treats and festivities.

In China, a predominantly atheist country with a small proportion of Christians, Christmas is just another working day. However, the Chinese Christmas experience has been gradually changing over the recent years.

Chinese businesses increasingly have started to incorporate a commercial Christmas theme into their winter seasons. It has sparked online discussion amongst netizens on what the influx of Jingle Bells at this time of year means to them.

According the Council on Foreign Relations, Chinese law allows what is described as “normal religious activities” that do not “engage in activities that disrupt social order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state.” The Chinese Communist Party is atheist and Christmas is not a public holiday.

The Mandarin for Christmas (圣诞节, shèngdànjié) roughly translates as “The Festival of the Holy Birth,” however Christmas in China is mostly commercial rather than religious. While some churches will hold Christmas services, Christmas in China mostly seems to be about shopping. Online and in-store, the festive season revolves around retail promotions using secular American and Eurocentric depictions of a white-bearded Santa and reindeer.

xmaschina

This trend shows no signs of stopping, and the idea of a Christmas period or ‘style’ has been growing year on year. This leads to mixed reactions from those keen to participate and those who are frustrated by the holiday hubbub.

Most Chinese citizens do not observe Christmas Day, but China’s foreigner community is often a source of events and parties organized for those who are away from home during the holidays. In Beijing, for example, a SantaCon event* has been held every December for the past few years. SantaCon participants, both local and foreign, dress as shengdan laoren (Santa Claus), sing Christmas songs, and tour the city together. *(SantaCon is a public gathering of ‘Santas’ for a pubcrawl or other activities, a tradition that started in 1994 San Fransisco).

SantaCon Beijing, via bekkibeijing.blogspot.nl.

SantaCon Beijing, via bekkibeijing.blogspot.nl.

Other similarly-themed public and private events involving fancy-dress, karaoke, Christmas dinners and partying are numerous in Beijing and other Chinese cities in December, despite the fact that this may not be the traditional way it is celebrated back home.

 

“Christmas is the chance to try out new foods and socialize in a style that is different from the norm.”

 

For many, the Christmas events and parties are just another chance to meet new people and learn more about other cultures. Former Beijing exchange student Raf tells What’s on Weibo: “Oddly enough, [it] isn’t something I’d do back in my hometown – it was something I only participated in during my time as a foreign exchange student in Beijing. It really felt like a great bonding experience of culture-sharing with your fellow expats when you’re handing out candy and singing Western Christmas carols.” Local citizens were “receptive and pretty welcoming in our revelries,” he adds.

For restaurants, the Christmas season is also a great opportunity to provide bespoke menus. Traditional Chinese celebrations such as Spring Festival are the perfect time for Chinese cuisine, however in December, many restaurants in larger international cities have begun to offer menus containing foods like cheese, baked bread and chocolate.

After welcoming esteemed chef Uwe Opocensky, Beef & Liberty Restaurant in Shanghai has noticed a rise in demand for more festive flavours that are not typically found in Chinese cuisine.

“We created a proper Christmas menu for bigger party bookings,” Taylor Yang from Beef & Liberty’s marketing team told What’s on Weibo: “All the items in there are the favorite Beef & Liberty items with some added festival elements. For example, the warm cookie is a regular popular item on our menu, and we added in orange and cinnamon elements to call it our Christmas cookie – it’s definitely a crowd pleaser.”

It seems that part of the appeal of Christmas is the chance to try out new foods and socialize in a style that is different from the norm.

 

“In China, Christmas is seen as a fashionable expression of the winter season.”

 

Despite the foods, costumes, and parties, Christmas in China is not entirely imported from a monolithic idea of ‘Western culture.’ Also influencing large portions of the country’s consumers is nearby South Korea, credited for creating a wave of cultural influence over its neighbors via the soft power channels of pop music, films and television.

According to data gathered by the Pew Research Centre in 2010, Christians accounted for just over five percent of the population in China, compared to almost thirty percent in South Korea. One facet of South Korea’s exported cultural wave is that it rarely alters its content for its foreign consumers.

Celebrating Christmas in South Korea, via independent.ie.

Celebrating Christmas in South Korea, via independent.ie.

It is therefore easy to see why the majority of Korean companies operating in China still offer Christmas promotions, such as cosmetic company Innisfree’s ‘Green Christmas’ range.

Over time, Chinese businesses have also utilized Christmas-themed campaigns. Popular hashtags on Weibo include “The best Christmas presents” (#圣诞节最佳礼物#) and Miaopai’s photography-themed “Snap-Crazy Christmas” (#疯拍圣诞节#). This altogether creates a sense that rather than a religious celebration, Christmas in China is seen as a fashionable expression of the winter season.

Despite South Korea and the many other countries and worldwide communities that celebrate Christmas, in online discussions, Christmas in China is often presented hand-in-hand with the West, described as “a foreign” or “Western” festival. Some worry that the Christmas promotions and deals are incompatible with traditional Chinese culture.

boycottxmas

In December 2015 a group of Hunan high school students dressed in traditional Chinese clothing (hanfu), protested by holding red placards reading “Boycott Christmas – don’t celebrate foreign festivals.”

 

“I don’t believe in Christianity and I don’t believe in God. Why would I celebrate the birth of Jesus?”

 

In response to these protests, netizen Sakura (@百斩少女刘兔兔), who has over ten thousand followers on Weibo, posted pictures of herself wearing hanfu dress in front of a Christmas tree with the caption “I want to tell everybody, as a true advocate of reviving traditional culture, wonderful cultures from both East and West can coexist. Boycott this negative hype, let’s calmly and confidently walk together.”

sakura

Discussions over the phrase “boycott Christmas” have since been floating around the web. Often in reaction to the commercial hashtags, some netizens express frustration at the festive frenzy and imply that many forget that rather than just an excuse to socialize and buy things, Christmas is primarily a Christian holiday that is not officially celebrated in China.

“Boycott Western Christmas!” says one Weibo user (@不良风气播报员): “People get so excited about Western festivals. The 25th rolls around and there’s so much trash, so many Santa hats, Christmas trees, Christmas clothes, bells, Santas – it all ends up on the trash heap. Protect the environment and boycott Christmas – oh, I mean Jesus’ birthday!”

@NewStar says: “Boycott Christmas. I don’t believe in Christianity and I don’t believe in God. Why would I celebrate the birth of Jesus? I celebrate Spring Festival, and I believe in my ancestors!”

However, others on Weibo use the phrase a little more light-heartedly: “Boycott Christmas, start the countdown to Spring Festival,” one Weibo user says: “But…the Christmas trees and Hello Kitty’s are just so sparkly, I love them.”

 

“Mother’s Day is from the West, Christmas is also from the West, so why do some people boycott Christmas but celebrate Mothers’ Day?”

 

Some netizens are purely excited for Christmas-themed coziness, hot chocolate and fairy lights. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!” writes @LittleGoddessClassroom adding a Santa emoji: “I heard we’re posting Christmas pictures. Good stuff is coming our way!”

In the midst of the debate, some have also explained that boycotting Christmas is not necessarily a matter of ‘East vs West’, but more about maintaining what they view to be traditional Chinese culture: “Mother’s Day is from the West, Christmas is also from the West, so why do some people boycott Christmas and yet rightly celebrate Mothers’ Day?” writes @MrJ-fans.

In a Weibo blog post, one author (@祝太太像宋慧乔) wrote that while Christmas is too small-scale to threaten traditional Chinese festivals, young people in particular embrace Christmas not necessarily for cultural reasons, but, as in the aforementioned fancy-dress events, in order to socialize: “Christmas is about merriment, getting together and enjoying oneself. Christmas songs, Christmas trees, Santa and presents are all for this purpose. You’d be hard-pressed to find another traditional holiday that has so many festive elements.”

Despite varied responses, the general consensus seems to be that while many are getting into the seasonal spirit, most netizens are mostly looking forward to the approaching Spring Festival.

China’s recent restaurant promotions, business campaigns, and online trends show that with the growth of globalization, there is an increased desire to engage with ‘trends’ and cultures from across the world. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that traditional Chinese culture, nor the Chinese internet, will be hijacked by Christmas hashtags anytime soon; the revelry surrounding Christmas is still vastly surpassed by the festivities that take place during the Chinese Lunar New Year.

whatsonweibochunwan

Let’s not forget that China’s annual televised Spring Festival Gala remains one of the most-watched programs in the world. Despite the Santa hats and Christmas decoration, many stores in China have already begun selling the scarlet Chinese New Year decorations.

By Cat Hanson

Disclaimer: Beef & Liberty restaurant is in no way affiliated with whatsonweibo.com or the opinions expressed by others in this.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Cat Hanson is a U.K. graduate of Chinese Studies now teaching and living in China. She swapped Beijing for Anhui, and runs her own blog on China life: Putong Press.

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  1. Avatar

    Zach Lucas

    December 22, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    In America so many Christmas gifts, so little thought behind them:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUkWq58Sx9o

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China Insight

Pelosi in Taiwan: “1.4 Billion People Do Not Agree with Interference in China’s Sovereignty Issues”

“The Old Witch has landed!”, many commenters wrote on Weibo when Pelosi arrived in Taiwan.

Manya Koetse

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August 2nd was a tumultuous day on Chinese social media, with millions of netizens closely following how Pelosi’s plane landed in Taiwan. Chinese state media propagate the message that not only Chinese authorities condemn the move, but that the Chinese people denounce it just as much.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is all the talk on Weibo, where netizens are closely following the latest developments and what they might mean for the near future of Taiwan and Sino-American relations.

“Today is a sensitive time, as it is said that Pelosi will fly into Taiwan tonight, challenging the one-China principle,” Global Times political commentator Hu Xijin wrote on Weibo on Tuesday afternoon, while Pelosi’s plane was still en route:

“At this time I’d like to tell everyone, that I firmly believe the Chinese government will definitely take a series of countermeasures, which include military actions. The Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of National Defense have repeatedly said they are “on the alert and combat-ready” and will not “sit and watch.” This is the country’s prestige, how could they not hit back? So let’s wait and see what will happen next.”

Tuesday was an extremely tumultuous day on Chinese social media as Taiwan- and Pelosi-related hashtags popped up one after the other, and news and videos kept flooding the platform, sometimes leading to a temporary overload of Weibo’s servers.

Around 20.30, an hour before Pelosi was expected to land in Taiwan at that time, more than half of all the trending search topics on Weibo related to Pelosi and Taiwan as virtually everyone was following the plane’s route and when it would land.

Not long before the expected landing of Pelosi’s plane, footage circulated on Weibo showing the iconic Taipei 101 building with a display of greetings to Pelosi, welcoming her to Taiwan and thanking her for her support.

By Tuesday night, Chinese official channels promoted the hashtags “The United States Plays With Fire & Will Burn Itself by Taiwan Involvement Provocation” (#美台勾连挑衅玩火必自焚#) along with the hashtag “1.4 Billion People Do Not Agree with Interference in China’s Sovereignty Issues” (​​#干涉中国主权问题14亿人不答应#).

Image posted by Communist Youth League on Weibo.

Millions of Chinese netizens followed flight radar livestreams, with one livestream by China.org receiving over 70 million viewers at one point.

On Tuesday night at 22:44 local time, after taking a detour, Pelosi’s plane finally landed in Taipei. About eight minutes later, Nancy Pelosi, wearing a pink suit, stepped out of the plane together with her delegation.

“The Old Witch has landed!”, many commenters wrote on Weibo, where Nancy Pelosi has been nicknamed ‘Old Witch’ recently.

Not long after, Hu Xijin posted on both on Twitter (in English) and on Weibo (in Chinese), writing that Pelosi’s landing in Taiwan opened an “era of high-intensity competition between China and US over Taiwan Strait.” Hu wrote that the PLA is announcing a series of actions, including military drill operations and live-fire exercises in zones surrounding Taiwan from August 4 to 7.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (华春莹) also posted a series of tweets condemning the “wrong and dangerous path” the U.S. is allegedly heading down, reiterating the same ‘1.4 billion people do not agree’ narrative that was previously propagated on Weibo by official channels: “Making themselves an enemy of the 1.4 billion Chinese people will not end up well. Acting like a bully in front of the whole world will only make everyone see that the US is the biggest danger to world peace.”

Many netizens expressed frustrations over how seemingly easy it was for Pelosi to land in Taiwan despite repeated warnings. “It’s not like I want us to go to war,” one person wrote on Weibo: “But they are getting off too easy. For days we shouted about countermeasures, what kind of countermeasure is this?”

“Even our community guard who makes 1500 a month [$220] does a better job; if he says you can’t come in, you can’t come in,” another blogger wrote.

The majority of commenters do express their dissatisfaction and anger about Pelosi coming to Taiwan, some even writing: “I hope that Taiwan is liberated when I wake up” or “We must unify again, once the Old Witch is gone, we can do so.”

Passed midnight the hashtag “There Is But One China” (#只有一个中国#), initiated by CCTV, picked up on Weibo and received over 320 million views. The post by CCTV that only said “there is but one China” was forwarded on Weibo over 1,3 million times.

“Taiwan is China’s Taiwan,” many people commented.

“I don’t think I can sleep tonight,” some wrote.

Meanwhile, on FreeWeibo, a website monitoring censored posts on Chinese social media platform Weibo, there are some posts casting another light on the Taiwan issue.

“Regarding ‘Taiwan is China’s Taiwan.’ Every person can vote, there’s multi-party rule, and there can be democratic elections. Only then can we talk about a reunification,” one comment said. It was censored shortly after.

For our other articles relating to Pelosi and her Taiwan visit, click here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Viral Bilibili Video Featuring Rural Carpenter: Disabled & Determined ‘Uncle’ Becomes Chinese Internet Sensation

Yige Caixiang’s touching portrait of his disabled Uncle shows that it’s not about the cards you’re dealt but about how you play them.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese vlogger Yige Caixiang (衣戈猜想) posted a short film on Bilibili about his disabled uncle living in a poor rural area in China. This portrait of his resilient and resourceful ‘Uncle’ has touched the hearts of many netizens, and went viral overnight.

A video that was posted on the Chinese video platform Bilibili on Monday, July 25, has gone viral on social media for the inspiring story it tells about a resilient villager who became disabled as a teenager. The video was uploaded by vlogger ‘Yige Caixiang’ (@衣戈猜想) and received over ten million views in a day, becoming the number one video on the Bilibili platform.

“This is my uncle,” the vlogger can be heard saying at the start of the 11:30-minute video, titled “How Uncle Cured My Mental Friction after Being Back in the Village for Three Days” (回村三天,二舅治好了我的精神内耗), introducing his old uncle and grandma standing in front of their home “built at a time when the U.S. didn’t even exist yet.”

While showing footage of family and village life, Yige Caixiang tells about his uncle through a voice-over, recording his own trip to his family’s village by detailing the life of his mother’s brother.

His uncle used to be the brightest kid in school, he tells, always getting top grades. One day, as a teenager, he got sick with a high fever. A doctor in a neighboring village ‘treated’ Uncle with various injections in his backside, after which Uncle could no longer use his leg and ended up being permanently disabled. Feeling depressed and hopeless, he did not return to school and spent weeks lying in bed. The village teachers were unable to convince him to come back to class.

After three years, Uncle stepped outside of the home courtyard for the first time with his crutches. He was inspired to become a carpenter after seeing one at work in the family courtyard, and so he also started doing the same work, and was able to make a living by going around and doing carpentry jobs for villagers. Never formally diagnosed, he was unable to get a disability certificate.

Wanting to visit Tiananmen Square’s Mao memorial hall, Uncle traveled to Beijing one time and ended up staying with a cousin who worked in the military, doing carpentry work for the soldiers, with whom he soon became friends. A military chief even rubbed his back in the public bath house (“people in Beijing are good at rubbing backs,” he’d later say).

But Uncle eventually returned to his village, and was able to attend his sisters’ wedding send-offs and gave them complete furniture sets personally made by him – a rare possession to have for a young rural bride in the 1980s.

Uncle made complete furniture sets.

Besides taking care of his sisters, Uncle also took care of an abandoned village girl named Ning Ning, whom he adopted. By the time she got married, he was able to help the young couple with the down-payment for their new family home, for which he invested half of his life savings.

 
“It is only when they are near the end of their lives that people come to realize that the biggest regret in life is always regretting the past.”
 

When Uncle was in his thirties, he became acquainted with a married lady from a nearby village. Although she had a husband and two daughters, she spent a lot of time with Uncle and even cooked and cleaned for him. Treating her as if she was his own wife, he handed over his weekly pay to her and was happy to have a bowl of rice and a warm house waiting for him after a hard day of work.

But as time went on, she never divorced her husband and other family members started seeing her as an intruder who was just out for his money to support her own family. The young Ning Ning even called her an “old fox.”

The ending of this peculiar love story remains somewhat of a mystery up to this day, Yige Caixiang says. The woman and her husband passed away in a shed due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Uncle never spoke of it again and also never married another woman.

As the decades passed, Uncle took care of his aging mother while still doing carpentry work, often taking him with her around the area. Years before, he once encountered the doctor who tried to ‘cure’ him. If this had happened now, the doctor had said, I would’ve been sued and lost lots of money. But that never would have happened at that time, and it never happened later either.

Grandmother, at 88, is now struggling with her health and does not have the energy to go on living anymore. “In aging and sickness we find a necessary exercise between life and death,” the vlogger reflects (“老病是生死之间的必要演习”), suggesting that the pain of growing old also makes it easier to be at peace when having to part with life.

By now, taking care of his old mother has become a full-time job for Uncle, who cooks for her and washes her face in the morning and bathes her feet at night. Besides that, he is also more than just a carpenter; he is the village handyman, repairing electronic devices, door locks, radios, stoves, and even fixing broken toys of the neighborhood children. When it is necessary, he can be an acupuncturist and a painter, too.

Whenever there is a problem, Uncle will find a way to solve it. There’s just three things he can’t repair, Yige Caixang says: smartphones, cars, and computers – because Uncle never owned any. Although the villagers sometimes jokingly call Uncle “crooked” because of his leg and crutches, they all know how much they care for him and how much the entire village depends on him.

In the final part of the 11-minute video, Yige Caixiang reflects on what life might have looked like for his Uncle if he had not received those injections in the 1970s. He probably would have taken the national exams, would have gone to study at university, and maybe would have become an engineer with a good income and secure financial future. But Uncle does not want to think like that. Refusing to look back, he is happy with his life in the village.

It is only when they are near the end of their lives that people come to realize that the biggest regret in life is always regretting the past, Yige Caixiang says. The main thing that matters in life is not the cards you were dealt, but how you play them. Uncle was dealt a bad card, but played it beautifully through his continuous self-improvement and perseverance.

In an old notebook underneath Uncle’s bed, a line of text scribbled on the first page shows a Mao Zedong quote: “Be determined, fear no sacrifice, and surmount every difficulty to win victory” (“下定决心,不怕牺牲,排除万难,去争取胜利”).

 
“Let Uncle quietly live together with grandma in the small mountain village – that is the most beautiful ending this story could have.”
 

A day after it was posted, the resilient Uncle is a much-discussed topic on Chinese social media. The overall tone and setting of the video is so spirit-lifting and humbling, that it is not surprising for both netizens and state media outlets to jump on it, just as they did before with stories shared by Ding Zhen, Fan Yusu, or Zhong Jitao.

One hashtag for the short film – “How Uncle Cured My Mental Friction after Being Back in the Village for Three Days” #二舅治好了我的精神内耗# – received a staggering 630 million clicks by Tuesday. The hashtag “Why Did Uncle Blow Up Like That” (#二舅为什么突然火了#) received over 140 million views on Weibo.

The vlogger who made and posted the video is mostly known by his social media handle, Yige Caixiang (衣戈猜想). The maker himself did not release his own real name nor that of his Uncle. The vlogger apparently used to be an instructor, as multiple netizens claim that he was their previous history teacher.

Yige Caixiang is not a Bilibili newcomer. As a creator, he previously uploaded over thirty videos. They are mostly related to popular science and none of them have blown up like this one has.

After the video flooded the internet, Yige Caixiang responded to the hype on Tuesday and posted the following on Weibo:

“Hi Weibo friends, many of you messaged me after seeing Uncle’s video, suggesting I’d let him go livestream on a big streaming site. Thanks to everyone for caring, but now that Uncle is getting some online attention, you want to persuade him to livestream to do what? Repeating his suffering like Xianglin’s Wife (t/n: this is a reference to an old woman in one of Lu Xun’s famous stories), then playing games with a bunch of people who don’t know anything, kneeling and begging them for support, and then suddenly starting to talk them into buying tissue paper? Uncle seriously lived half of his life already, I shared his story now, you heard it and it touched you, this makes a beautiful little story, and it should have a beautiful ending. Didn’t we see enough beautiful stories with a rotten ending over the past few years? Let Uncle quietly live together with grandma in the small mountain village – that is the most beautiful ending this story could have.”

Addressing rumors that the video was not authentic, Yige Caixiang said about the video that “every single word is true” and that none of the details surrounding Uncle’s life had been edited or altered in any way.

The video speaks to netizens for different reasons. Many are inspired due to the life lessons it contains regarding perseverance and not looking back on the things that might have been different. Others praise how Uncle was still able to save so much money for his daughter’s down-payment on her new home despite struggling himself. Many just applaud Uncle’s unparalleled strength despite their disability. Others appreciate the perspective the video gives on Chinese rural life.

There are also those who are concerned about enthusiastic netizens visiting Uncle in his sleepy hometown. Let’s hope the creator’s wish to let Uncle and his grandmother continue their quiet life together is the happy ending this viral story will get.

To view the video (no subtitles yet), state media outlet China Daily posted it to YouTube on Tuesday (embedded below):

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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