All I want for Christmas is no more Mariah Carey!

Despite Christmas not being particularly huge in China, it's still hard to escape the incessant bombardment of Mariah Carey's Christmas renditions in nearly every store and mall.
Imaginechina

Visitors take photos with a 22-meter-tall Christmas tree decorated with golden LEDs in front of Vanke Mall in Shanghai's Minhang District.

This year I will spend the “festive season” here in China, but I really don’t mind at all.

That’s probably in no small part to do with the fact that I didn’t even celebrate my first Christmas until I was about 14 years old, having grown up under the control of a religion that believes enjoying Christmas, birthdays, Halloween — and even eating a bloody chocolate egg at Easter — is a huge sin.

You’ll get swallowed up in the ground when Armageddon comes if you take part in any of that stuff, we were told as kids. I spent much of my primary school days waiting for that to happen after Mrs McLeod made us each make a Christmas card in class when I was six. Nice memories.

Once I waved at a man dressed as Santa who was standing on the side of the street when I was little, and mum called me a pagan. I’ve always remembered that for some reason.

That’s probably why Christmas has never really held any special place in my heart, and also probably why I’m really not that phased to be spending my time at work on that jolly day while friends and family back home sit around opening presents they don’t really need or want and smiling graciously.

In fact, being in China is a great way to miss out on all the commercial hype that tends to overwhelm the West during this time of year. The pressure to spend is huge, and hard to escape.

And let’s not mention Mariah bloomin’ Carey! All I want for Christmas is to never hear that woman sing again! But with the growing popularity of Christmas (read: excuses to spend) in China, it's hard to escape the incessant bombardment of that woman's voice in most stores and malls at this time of year.

The good thing about living in China is I get to ignore all the Western festivals, and then I can feign ignorance when it comes to all the Chinese festivals. That almost certainly leads to savings!

I do admit, though, that it would be nice to see my family over the festive season. After all, Christmas is akin to Chinese New Year in terms of catching up with family.

I will look out the office window on Christmas day and think of them, back home in the summer heat, eating Christmas barbeque and chocolate cake.

Do Chinese people celebrate Christmas?

Younger Chinese are becoming more and more inclined to get in on the Christmas spirit, together with other Western festivals such as Easter, Halloween and even Thanksgiving.

Without all the history and tradition of Christmas, Chinese are making up some pretty funny and novel ways to celebrate the festive season. 

Last year I talked about the phenomenon of the “peace apple,” a cute gift idea (simply an apple wrapped in a nice box) that was all the rage with young Chinese, born out of the idea that “apple” (pingguo) shares similar pronunciation with Christmas Eve (ping’anye).

I haven’t seen peace apples around this year, but maybe I just haven’t noticed. Or maybe ever-prosperous Chinese have turned to giving Apple iPhones and iPads instead of a little, red apple that you can actually eat. I certainly hope not!

This year there are huge pillow fights across the country, including in Shanghai, to celebrate Christmas and release the tensions built up throughout the year. Each city’s event will feature hundreds of participants, all given a pillow and allowed to go wild with the accompaniment of a DJ and other performers. What does that have to do with Christmas? Well, probably nothing, but it sounds fun to me!

Christmas is becoming so popular in certain parts of China that some governments have felt the need to release guidelines for the jolly season.

In Yunnan Province, the Xishan District Police of Kunming have released a set of rules governing public order when Santa comes to visit. Among the guidelines, residents are warned to act civilized, refrain from the use of fireworks, and not litter during celebrations. Police warn that anyone who breaks these Christmas rules will “face the full force of the law,” with zero tolerance.

It’s going to be fun coming to the office on Monday, to be quite honest with you. I’m living in China for new experiences and to discover new cultures, so I’m really open about sitting at my desk all day and checking up on my family through Facebook as they upload the obligatory snaps of gifts and food.

I might even eat something special for lunch that day, but I still doubt I’ll take part in any pillow fights. Not this year at least.

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