Christmas in China: customs and economics

The picture shows a christmas tree yellow ball with a naive depiction of Santa Claus on it. Tha ball is reflected on a dark surface, whose limits are not clear

How Christmas conquered China 

Christmas is a magical time of the year: cities are filled with a thousand colored lights, eccentric decorations pop up from shop windows, and we all feel good, generous and hopeful. Yes, Christmas is a Christian holiday. However, it is celebrated all over the world, even in China where the Christian community barely reaches 5% of the total population.

More than the religious aspect, the Chinese appreciate the atmosphere and the opportunity to get together with friends and family, and why not, to exchange gifts. Just like everything that comes from the outside, Christmas is also filtered through Chinese culture and tradition.

How China conquered Christmas

An example is the choice of the word that indicates Christmas: 圣诞 (shèngdàn). In fact, in ancient times, this word was used to indicate the birthday of Confucius, literally the birth (诞) of the sage man (圣). Over time, an all-Chinese tradition linked to Christmas has been created: to give an apple on Christmas Eve.

The reason? In Chinese Christmas Eve is said 平安夜 (píngānyè), very similar to the word apple 平安果 (píngānguŏ) or more commonly 苹果 (píngguŏ). The apple is wrapped, decorated and / or personalized with greeting messages that also draw on Chinese tradition.

It’s not Christmas without..

Obviously, could not miss the food. In fact, eating is a ritual in China, just as it is in Italy. Being together, sharing and celebrating is important. For this reason, Chinese people came up with something original for Christmas, the reinterpretation of tanghulu (糖葫芦), a typical snack from northern China. This snack is made of candy-coated fruits on a bamboo skewer. The Christmas theme is given by strawberries, black sesame and bananas which remind of Santa Claus.

However, Christmas is also about exchanging gifts, a tradition that the Chinese do not feel like betraying. Indeed, the race for Christmas gifts begins early in China, thanks to the Day of Singles 光棍节 (guānggùnjié), a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day which is celebrated on November 11th.

On this day, singles think of themselves by giving themselves gifts. For the occasion, there are crazy discounts both online and in stores. This year there were many concerns due to the economic crisis caused by the covid-19 pandemic.

Commercial and viral..

However, Chinese economy seems to be resisting. In fact, the national spending marks an increase of 45%, also influenced by the fact that the Chinese, forced to give up traveling abroad for the holidays, buy more and more within the country. According to Jing Daily, Chinese consumers’ spending on luxury goods will continue to grow also in 2021 thanks to the launch of the digital yuan, the extended duty-free quota (from 30,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan), the opening of new stores and the further consolidation of Hainan as a shopping Makkah.

Justin Yu, head of sales at PinghuMijia Child Product Co, based in Zhejiang, says: “Although the pandemic is very serious, people are looking forward to Christmas. It’s like a sort of revenge spending after a long depression. This year there may be fewer parties, but those who celebrate Christmas will celebrate it anyway, and those who shop for Christmas will go on shopping. ”

Let’s wish everyone 恭祝圣诞并贺新禧, and for those interested there is a very nice link on the story of Jesus seen from a Chinese perspective.