Beijing is getting into the Christmas spirit. Restaurants, malls, and upscale residences are decked with boughs of paper holly. Window panes all around are scribbled over with frosty, misspelled cheer (“Merry Chrismas!”). Hotels lend their lobbies to adorable choir children and their adoring parents for holiday carols. And eager boyfriends in the city are busily making Christmas Eve plans. At least they should be.
Last week, a reader posted this dicey query on my blog:
“My ABC (American-born-Chinese) boyfriend’s idea of a fun Christmas Eve is going to kungfu practice and then meeting up with me at a dumpling joint nearby. When I teasingly protested to this plan, he simply raved that these dumplings come in ‘five amazing flavors.’ What should I do? I don’t want to be demanding, but Wing Chun and dumplings are not my idea of a special first Christmas together.”
To save thousands of girlfriends from disappointment this December, and to save their boyfriends from unwittingly landing in the dog house at year end, let’s address this timely issue. Boys and men, you will be much better served if you think of Christmas in China as Valentine’s Day.
A dumpling dinner – even at a joint that serves up “five amazing flavors” – is a classic example of what not to do with your girlfriend during “Chinese Christmas”.
Without the religious or cultural traditions to back up the festive occasion, Christmas has grown into a major commercial production in big cities over the last decade. It is now an occasion when ladies expect their men to make a big fuss, much like a Western anniversary night requires a candle-lit diner deux.
A good ole Chinese Christmas bears no resemblance to the mass going, home cooking, family gathering, and eggnog drinking affair of the West. Here, Dec 24 is a night not to spend at home with your folks. While Chinese New Year is sacred time reserved for relatives, this “imported” December holiday is a special time for friends and lovers.
This week, restaurants are pushing special Christmas menus, malls stay open late into the night, bars and clubs offer yuletide happy hours, and hot spots like Wangfujing and Houhai are buzzing with lights and music. Travel agencies even send off adventurers on a seasonal tour of Finland, which (along with Sweden and Norway) claims to be the home of Santa Claus.
Sounds like sacrilege? Not more so than the massive consumption campaigns that take place on Black Friday in America. The bottom line: with all these dazzling commercial options it would be foolish to not plant yourself in a place conducive to a joyous count down when the clock strikes midnight on Dec 24.
A mouth full of cabbage dumplings may not be your honey’s idea of ambience. Chinese couples ring in Christmas Day like it’s 1999 – with a kiss and champagne corks a-flying.
Singles need not fret for Chinese Christmas. Unlike on actual Valentine’s Day, this time of year offers groups of friends an excuse to hit up entertainment venues in droves without feeling embarrassed or sorry.
Chinese Christmas may smack of marketing, but hey, don’t be a scrooge. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The only bad news? Planning a romantic Christmas Eve will not absolve you of the responsibility to repeat the exercise all over again when Feb 14 rolls around.