It would seem that every year Christmas becomes more and more firmly embedded in the societal norms that make up China. It’s easy for us who’ve a history with the holiday to scoff at the Chinese and their feeble attempts to understand this mammoth festivity. The way they buy tiny plastic trees, recite heavily accented carols, and exchange gifts… all with little to no understanding that the day is anything but another opportunity to give things to friends and family and get stuff in return.
But see, they’ve got one thing right – they know how to celebrate and not get caught up in the details. Sure they don’t have all that Christian kid in a barn stuff, and they vote undecidedly on whether Santa lives at the North or South Pole, but … isn’t thinking about friends and family the real point of all this? And I’ve not met a Chinese person yet that gave out a sigh of frustration or desperation when talking about buying gifts for their friends and family for Christmas.
Actually, if anything, this my second Christmas in China has clarified a few things for me. We need more festivals, not less. If the Chinese want to take this holiday and celebrate it by buying gifts for their loved ones with no idea about baby JC and his vestal mama.. so be it. That’s not what Christmas is about any more than worrying you got everyone what they wanted is. Christmas, at least to this lost laowai, is about recognizing that a world with festivals is a world worth living in.
As long as we have something to celebrate, no matter how obtuse or without understanding, humanity has some spark that sets it alight in the darkness of mundane survival. And survival is a beast that lurks ever-present waiting to regain its foothold as the governor of our existence.
So, Westerns that think the Chinese have got it wrong, and Chinese who think that Western holidays are squeezing out your own culture… take a moment and recognize that a holiday is a holiday – and there are far too many days in the year that aren’t holidays to start bitching and complaining about the ones we manage to get.