Hol­i­day Hum­bug

WHY SOME CHI­NESE STILL REFUSE TO GET INTO THE CHRIST­MAS CHEER

The World of Chinese - - Tea Leaves -

Hal­loween may have passed but the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing Western hol­i­days in China has not. On Novem­ber 1, a woman com­plained on­line that chil­dren at a lo­cal Fam­ily Mart had been tak­ing candy di­rectly from the shelves, and get­ting staff to pay for it.

The post was shared more than 40,000 times as ne­ti­zens huffed about Hal­loween: “Isn’t that rob­bery?” “Is it nec­es­sary for Chi­nese peo­ple to cel­e­brate this fes­ti­val?” “It’s not ap­pro­pri­ate to ask for candy from peo­ple who don’t cel­e­brate Hal­loween.” (Fam­ily Mart re­sponded that it was a vol­un­tary event ini­ti­ated by staff).

The de­bate over whether Chi­nese should en­joy Hal­loween, or other Western-style fes­ti­vals, con­tin­ues. Hu Ping, a par­ent from Liaon­ing prov­ince, com­plained that her three-yearold’s kinder­garten teach­ers “de­manded par­ents pre­pare

pump­kins and cos­tumes for the kids, which took a lot of time.” More­over, the class did noth­ing for the Chongyang Fes­ti­val, a tra­di­tional Chi­nese hol­i­day that took place just be­fore Hal­loween this year. “Now I worry that when Christ­mas comes, I will have to find a Santa for my kid.”

Hu had rea­son to worry: Christ­mas is even more pop­u­lar in China than Hal­loween. In first-tier cities, Santa Claus stands (of­ten, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, with a sax­o­phone) in shop­ping malls, and restau­rants, sur­rounded by dec­o­ra­tions, while car­ols play over sound sys­tems. For many Chi­nese, who have no re­li­gious ba­sis for cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas, the hol­i­day is sim­ply a night out with­out any spir­i­tual mean­ing. It’s enough to have an ex­cuse to spend money and have some fun.

Of course, not ev­ery­one is ready to em­brace the spirit of Christ­mas. In 2014, the ed­u­ca­tion bu­reau in the coastal city of Wen­zhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, tried to ban Yule­tide ac­tiv­i­ties in lo­cal schools and kinder­gartens. The same year, Mod­ern Col­lege at Xi’an’s North­west Univer­sity pro­hib­ited its stu­dents from cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas, in­stead, mak­ing them watch a doc­u­men­tary about tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture on Christ­mas Eve.

But such boy­cotts don’t rep­re­sent the wider pub­lic. One Weibo poll of 60,000 users found that 53 per­cent were op­posed to the col­lege’s ban, while 47 per­cent sup­ported it. Christ­mas lovers ar­gued that most Chi­nese peo­ple also cel­e­brate New Year on Jan­uary 1, which is also tech­ni­cally a Western hol­i­day. Oth­ers dis­missed Christ­mas as a mean­ing­less shop­ping day.

“I don’t think Western fes­ti­vals should be boy­cotted, nor do I think they should be forced on peo­ple,” says Hu. “Peo­ple can choose for them­selves. Why does ev­ery­one have to do the same things?” – SUN JIAHUI (孙佳慧)

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