See also: Halloween in Beijing
When I just moved to Beijing, I was full of questions and one of them was “what about Christmas in Beijing.” They don’t celebrate was the most frequent answer. As a country where religion is pretty much banned (literally) it comes as no surprise. However, religion is only one of the reasons and as a non-believer Christmas is still my favourite time of the year.
Well guess what, even before the Christmas lights go across in the western world, Beijing is exploding with decorations. Almost right after the Halloween, shops, malls and just about every corner of Beijing was Christmas ready. It is just as commercial as it is back home and the value of western culture amongst Beijingers is through the roof. They even love the Thanks Giving. Yes, I know.
Although, you can see Christmas all around you, whether you can feel it, now that’s a separate question. Hardly, is my answer. You can fake the decorations and the celebrations, but if it has no meaning to you, Christmas cheer is something you can’t fake, even in a capital of counterfeits. As for decorations, they are beautiful but I have also seen some appalling arrangements that no respectable business would have in Europe.
It was my first Christmas away from home, from family and friends. Lack of that so called Christmas spirit in the air just added to home sickness. Nothing that can’t be fixed. A parcel from my mum just in time for Christmas together with Christmas tree and decorations that came to about 10 pounds or so did the job. Not to mention some amazing friends that I’ve made here already, who were going through the same thing as I did. So together, we managed to host a kick ass Christmas Eve gathering on campus with some home-made Bulgarian food and lots of booze and fun. I must say, must’ve been my drunkest Christmas eve to date (mum don’t read this!). That kept me in bed for most of Christmas day, since there weren’t any Christmas presents under my tree when I woke up either (Santa is a persona non grata in China). As soon as I left the bed, I was at our local bar here on CUC campus were we continued celebrations with all, well most, international students who didn’t go home for the holidays. It was fun filled couple of days that helped overcome the home sickness and realize how great the people I have met here actually are.
Everyone knows that Chinese New Year is the biggest celebration that they have here in China and it does not coincide with ours. Just like Christmas, New Year is a somewhat western import and it’s catching on. Especially amongst younger Beijingers, both Christmas and New Year’s is an occasion to hang out with friends. I guess just like any other weekend. I must note that this might be different outside Tier 1 cities like Beijing or Shanghai, and I am certain in rural China they never heard of Christmas or New Year’s Eve. If you haven’t read yet, have a look at this Yiwu village in China that produces 60% of the world’s Christmas decorations and even they don’t know what Christmas is!
With the success of Christmas party hosted by two of my new Liverpudlian friends, we welcomed the New Year in the same manner – drunk and jolly. Now, I am not sure if I remember correctly, but there weren’t any fireworks in sight. They’re more like a Chinese New Year thing and they make more noise than sight. If you wish to see how Beijing wishes the world to see it’s celebrations, here’s the New Year’s fireworks display held at Beijing Olympic Stadium aka ‘Birds Nest.’
It was great fun, apart from the fact that due to some technical difficulties I was left without access to internet throughout the celebrations, which sucked! Although, on the bright side, it allowed me to embrace the moment and celebrations here, with the first couple of billion people to greet the 2015 and without missing home too much. I was in bed before you guys in Europe even got that New Year’s Kiss amidst sounds of Auld Lang Syne.
As most of us are back to running the world, i.e. Work, today, I wish you all the best in the New Year. Let’s make sure it is the best one yet, so go on and do those crazy things you’ve always wanted to and work towards those dreams that you may have shelved for a little while. It will be worth it!