It’s my second Christmas in China and this year it has a different feel to it. That’s because it actually looks like Christmas this year in Zhuhai.
Compared to last year there are many more Christmas trees and other decorations in public places. There’s probably a good reason for it. Guandong where I live is the fastest growing province in China. The population is getting a big boost from foreigners coming to do business. Some are here for short visits; others for extended stays. So it’s not surprising that hotels win the unofficial prize for holiday decorating. It’s a basic rule of the hospitality industry that you make your guests feel comfortable. The hotels have obviously figured out that many foreigners celebrate Christmas.
Hotels are the main place where you can find a lot of the signs of the season. But in general it seems to be catching on all over. Many street vendors and shops in Gongbei for example are selling assorted decorations. I was combing through a box of cardboard Christmas creations and some Chinese women were watching carefully to see what the foreigner selected. When I was done, they quickly took their turn. They laughed excitedly at the box’s offerings. Remember, Christmas is a new experience for many Chinese. One of the women, in fact, showed me her selections to see if they got the nod of approval from the foreigner. I gave her the thumbs up-a hand signal many seem to recognize. ( Thankfully, because it has made shopping much easier during my time in China). Of course, there’s a ready supply of decorations since the majority of the ones “decking the halls” in America are made in China.
Asian folks are also obviously not used to motion activated displays. Several stores have a Santa Claus that plays a saxophone when
a warm body gets near his instrument .I’ve seen many jump back in surprise when old Santa starts letting go with “Jingle Bell Rock”.
Even light displays are starting to catch on. The International Mall in a nearby town has a pretty neon display that really lights up the night. It has the visitors “ooowing and aaahing” ( Much like fireworks do in the U.S.) The Chinese seem to be discovering those electronic items Americans are so fond of can be appreciated closer to home as well.
There may be more of a Christmas feel to China this year compared to last, but that doesn’t mean there are not challenges for Americans. I’m talking about shipping. Last year I sent out my packages through the Chinese post office. I mailed in nearly December and paid about $100 in American money for their supposedly fast service. Their concept of fast differs dramatically from mine. My late father used to talk about a “slow boat to China” and that’s where I think my presents went. The packages arrived in time for the holiday. Unfortunately that holiday was Valentine’s Day NOT Christmas. This year friends recommended I try sending them through Hong Kong. So I sent them along with a colleague who lives in Hong Kong. But his bus was delayed and by the time he arrived the post office was closed and the next day it would be shut down for Sunday. It’s never a good idea to bring items back across the border. So we decided to see if a former colleague living in HK could help. She was busy with classes so she recruited a teaching assistant to help. But in all this package shuffling he did not get the word that I wanted fast mail. Fortunately there’s a big difference between Hong Kong and mainland China (a simple word: reliability) This year my Christmas gifts made it in plenty of time .
And what would Christmas be without music? This year I found a shop selling a CD featuring many classic Christmas hits (only 3 American dollars). Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Cuomo add a nice touch to Christmas in China!.