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what does christmas mean to you?

I asked that question to my students at Shanghai University. Here are some of their unedited responses.

***

Christmas is an important festival in western countries. Foreigners regard Christmas Day as ceremonious just like that we Chinese regard Spring Festival like New Year’s Day. According to a reliable survey, Christmas became popular with a group of fashionable young people about 30 years ago. But it was not well-known in most normal families. It was thought as a fresh thing. Nowadays, with the development of China and contact between west and east, more and more people know and celebrate this special day in many ways.

Today I went to a big supermarket called “Legou” in the center of shanghai. I was surprised to see many Christmas trees and toys of Santa Claus in the main hall of the supermarket and on the goods shelves. The ceiling was covered with Santa flowers and Santa bells. The atmosphere was fairly cozy there. Every one seemed enjoy the special day. In the middle of the supermarket, there was a particular counter for the Christmas goods. I bought a big red stock made in cotton with much white wool around it. I will hang it on my door, waiting for Santa Claus to give me a small surprise. I know it sounds ridiculous for a college student to say such kind of thing, but I really believe Santa Claus is in every one’s heart.

Before Christmas Day, I wish you Dan will have a good time in Christmas time. Wish everything goes well with you. This is my sincere wish, please trust me.

***

I first knew Christmas at TV. On Dec.25th, people get together to celebrate day ceremoniously. A family would stay together at Christmas Eve. They send each other presents that are usually under a Christmas tree. Sometimes they sing a song to praise the Christ for their religious belief.

Since my senior high school, it has been very popular to spend the Christmas Day in Shanghai, especially for the youth. We bought the Christmas tree and send Christmas cards each other. Each year before Dec.25th, I had bought lots of cards and had lots of people to send the cards to. I should send the card to my relations, to my friends, to my classmates, to some acquaintances and to the acquaintances’ acquaintance.

At first I got excited, but was bored with it soon. I was tired of sending cards and feared for receiving them. What made me more disappointed was that I had no holiday on Christmas, only got some small parties after class.

So as for me, Christmas does not mean much. It helped me spend some money on cards, waste some time and made some new friends. On the whole, it is no bad, I think.

***

Christmas is not a Chinese native festival. So when Chinese people celebrate it, I feel very strange and can’t totally get involed in it. Many years ago, Christmas cards are very popular in Shanghai. People sent them in order to express their best wishes to good friend. But in recent years, I have seldom seen Christmas tree or anything like that. Perhaps Christmas just means “crowd.” When I was in the street, I saw people passing by hurried to some place or rush into a shop. I can really tell myself that I am in the city and I can experience the great foreign festival. But it doesn’t mean anything to me, just an ordinary day.

***

A old amiable man in red gown with white beard always jump into my mind when I think about Christmas. In my mind, Christmas is a exotic holiday, it always bring me warm when i see through the picture widow — there is a big pine tree with colorful decorations and lively small presents on. family members sit together, with the fireplace make the room fairly warm. there is cheer in every face and there is a song in every heart. of course, there are delicious food in abundance and appetizing food:) oh, i’m dreaming again.

however, in reality, i’ll not observe Christmas specially, but Christmas is really a good rescue for me to have a party with my friends, and we can sing and play together, and entertain our stomach!

***

HELLO DAN, LAST WEEK YOU ASKED US TO TELL YOU WHAT CHRISTMAS MEAN TO US. NOW I AM VERY GLAD TO TELL YOU MY THOUGHTS.
AS WE ALL KNOW , CHRISTMAS IS A WESTERN FESTIVAL, CHINESE SHOULD NOT HAVE THIS FESTIVAL. BUT NOW, SHHANGHAI IS A MODERN CITY, MORE AND MORE WESTERNERS COME TO SHANGHAI TO VISIT OR WORK. AND SOME OF THEM MUST HAVE THEIR CHRISTMAS IN CHINA. SO THEY GATHER TOGETHER AND SHARE IT. I KNOW CHRISTMAS MEAN A LOT TO AMERICANS. THE AMERICANS ARE VERY INDEPENENT, EACH ONE HAS HIS OWN LIFE, AND THEY WILL NOT PLENTIFUL TIME TO LIVE TOGETHER. BUT IN CHINA, THE FAMILY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, THE CHINESE YOUNGMEN WILL LIVE WITH THEIR PARENTS UNTIL THEY MARRY, IT DOES NOT MEAN CHINESE ARE NOT INDEPENDENT BUT WE LOVE OUR PARENTS AND WANT TO LOOK AFTER THEM, BEACAUSE IF WE LEAVE THEM, THEY MAYBE FEEL LONELY AND HELPLESS. SO WE DO NOT SHARE CHRISTMAS TOGETHER.

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, THE CHINESE YOUNGMEN SOMETIMES LIKE CHRISTMAS, WHY? I THINK THEY FEEL IT IS A FRESH THING, THEY FELL INTERESTING WHEN THEY LOOK AT THE FATHER CHRISTMAS AND THE TURKEY, AND IT MEANS NOTHING FOR THEM, JUST FOR FUN. AMONG THE CHINESE STUDENTS. WE SEND MANY CHRISTMAS CARDS TO OUR FRIENDS AND CLASSMATES ALTHOUGH WE SEE EACH OTHER EVERY DAY, WE OFTEN BUY 20-30 CHRISTMAS CARDS AND IT IS A BIG SPENDING TO A STUDENT, I THINK IT IS A WASTE, AND THIS ACTION ASLO DESTROY OUR ENVIRONMENT, MORE AND MORE TREES ARE CUTTING DOWN NOWSDAYS , A LARGE PART OF THEM ARE USED TO MAKE CARDS, AND WE JUST RECIEVE THE CARDS AND PUT THEM AWAY OR SHROW THEM AWAY. WE CAN NOT DO SUCH A FOOL THING AGAIN. I THINK AN E-MAIL IS A GOOD WAY TO CELEBRATE THE CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR.

***

When I was in my junior school, I heard about the Christmas for the first time. At that time, I knew almost nothing about it. The only thing Christmas meant to me was that I would spend lots of money buying Christmas cards. However, as time goes by, i have learned more about Christmas.

People buy Christmas trees, prepare gifts for others and eat turkeys. They also have a long holiday. One of my friends, who went to America several years ago, told me that turkeys were hard to eat. Is that true?

I think Christmas is a western traditional festival, just like our spring festival. Every country has its own traditional festival. It is a chance to express my best wishes to those who I love or love me. It is time for me to relieve myself from hard working. Everyday can be a festival if I want to.

***

Christmas is coming. Family members will sit around the Christmas tree, sing Christmas songs and have a lot of fun on that day. Also, Santa claus will ride his carriage and put gift into every child’s stocking while he is sleeping. Now, everyone knows who is real Santa claus but it doesn’t matter, because when you believe in something, then, it is true.

To me, Christmas=snow=a beautiful sad story.

Edward stands on a ladder and carves a large ice with his scissorhands. He loves Kim, so he carves her image as an angel. He does it so quickly that he makes snowflake dance in the air. And Kim is dancing in the snow. From then on, there is snow in the small village.

Decades of years later, old Kim is telling her granddaughter the story. She looks at the snow outside and says: “Before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. I don’t think it would be snowing now if he were not still up here. Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.”

This is the most touching plot in Edward’sscissorhands — as long as there is snow, there is Edward; as long as there is Edward, there is warmth. It is my favorite movie. I didn’t understand why everyone wants a white Christmas before, but now I see. White Christmas stands for purity, the purity of one’s heart.

Maybe because of the pressure of living, one does not have much time to think why sometimes he treats others unfaithfully or why he has to hide his nature to appease others. One has walked too far away from his nature nowadays. It is not only because white Christmas is beautiful but one wants to purify his soul at this holy night as well.

***

Well, what does Christmas mean to me. I remember being puzzled about the Santa Claus when was only about ten. The night before Christmas I went to bed as early as usual cos’ I don’t believe such things. I thought Santa was only a man in the moon. But when I opened my eyes the next morning. I saw many colorful balloons hanging from the ceiling of my room. I was so amazed that I kneaded my eyes, unable to believe it.

Having asked daddy, I found it must have been done by some other people cos’ he said he had no idea of that and he seemed even amazed. Then he explained with amusement: that might be Santa.

I thought it was mum. Though they divorced but I’m still expecting her, which was impossible as father said. She lived too far away and she didn’t have the key.

But I still hoped so.

Years later, I gradually knew that it was father. Though he pretended to knew nothing about that. But that really puzzled me for such a long time about whether there was Santa or not or mum had come. As for dad, I’m really grateful cos’ he gave me room of imagination and a golden childhood full of dreams and encouragement in such a hard time without mum.

That’s my story. I say the Christmas means a lot. Not so shallow as they say it will cost money and it’s a waste of time to write so many cards. Only that you have your heart in it cos’ you love someone and you want what he doubted to be true. As I grow up, I would always think of that wonderful moment when I told my classmates my marvelous experience and they all admired me. I might have a superiority complex at that time cos’ I think I needed that. In the following years I never saw mum. She became faded away in my heart but there’s a “Santa.”

So, if in one’s heart there is still a hope a wish, he endeavors to fulfill it. He’s got encouragement and motivation. And every time I came to problems, I thought I would always be the most fortunate one and nothing could wreck me!

***

What does Christmas mean to me? well, as far as I am concerned, the Christmas seemed to become popular in China overnight. Not until I realized the existence of such a holiday, did many of my friends celebrate the foreign festival. Maybe I was out-of -fashion. Sort of. Then I learned that it is the feast of the nativity of Jesus on Dec 25th. Gradually, I accepted the concept of a jolly Santa Claus.

For me, Christmas means that I can get all kinds of regards and gifts from my sister, friends, classmates and cousins, not including my parents. (They are such kind of person who are only accustomed to the traditional Chinese New Year, the Spring Festival.) And in return, I’ll give my best wishes to anybody I like. At the very beginning, no cards, no presents, just oral blessings. Afterwards, I also sent them Christmas cards and gifts. Anyway, action speaks louder than words. Don’t you think so?

I can image how joyful it is to sit around the Christmas tree with one’s lovely family, have a wonderful and delicious dinner together, make a vow to the God and pray for a happy New Year. But as I mentioned above, my parents are very conservative, so we never celebrate the Christmas at home. There is nothing special in my family on that day. As a matter of fact, I think celebrating the Christmas is a matter of the youth, who are about my age or even younger. As for the Christmas decoration on the streets, shop windows, department stores, they are for commercial purpose, obviously, but to some degree, it shows that China now is an open country. And it can make many foreigners feel at home, especially those in Shanghai, I suppose.
Well, that is all of my viewpoint about Christmas.

The Christmas is drawing near, greeting you warmly with a wish that is sincere for a happy , healthy and wonderful days. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

***

As far as I know, Christmas is a very important day for people who believe in God. It’s a religious festival. I don’t believe in God, so Christmas almost means nothing to me. But when Christmas comes, I will think of sending cards to my friends.
In the past years, since our country had little contact with western countries, we knew nothing about Christmas. But now, Chinese people, especially young people, begin to imitate western people to celebrate Christmas. They send gifts and cards to classmates and friends. When Christmas is drawing near, Christmas cards will become popular.

My parents know nothing about Christmas. They are very traditional Chinese. They don’t understand why I spend much money on Christmas cards because they think Christmas is only a western festival. Sometimes, I also ask myself the same question: Why I spend money on Christmas which is not our Chinese festival?

***

In my mind, the X’mas is not a very important festival in China. It is known to all that X’mas is a festival from western countries. But in fact, X’mas is really popular in China, especially in Shanghai. Young people in Shanghai are quite willing to accept new culture, and things in other countries are usually full of interest. So, as western people do, they take X’mas as their own festival to celebrate. And businessmen find that X’mas is a good opportunity to make profits from. As a result, goods of X’mas can be seen in every market and stores in Shanghai.

I think X’mas is very close to the New Year’s Eve, so It’s a good chance to get in touch with the friends and relatives. It’s also quite good for us to go out for entertainment.

Inwardly, I like X’mas, not only for the presents but also for the culture background. And in Shanghai, only young generations will get together for celebrating X’mas. Adults take no aware of it. I never received any present from Santi Crous, but many X’mas cards from my friends. I think it is the culture that make the difference.
At last, may you have a good X’mas in Shanghai!

***

In my opinion, Christmas is an important, pompous and traditional ceremony for Christians. On every Christmas day, Christians commemorate the great Jesus who died for atoning for guilty people.

Although I am not a christian and i am not famliar with the culture of Christmas, the ceremony has become a part of my life. In the junior school, I always bought a lot of Christmas cards to send to my students and teachers. After entering the senior high school, I began to listen to some Christmas songs which are beautiful and soft. Now being a university student whose major is English, I find that I get more access than ever to Christmas which represents a deep culture. Well aware that I have got many backgrounds about Christmas from the Bible which is a quite meaningful and prestigious book, reading the Bible occupys my some spare time though it is hard for me to understand, at least it will help my English learning, i think.

So beginning with Christmas, the Bible, my learning extends to a new field. I hope I can touch, feel the core of English, the foreign culture student.

***

Someone holds the opinions that Christmas means a time to worry that there is enough money to buy every one a present, a time to over indulge in eating and drinking. But I don’t agree with it. What does Christmas mean to me, a time of goodwill to all men, a time to spend with my own family and a joyfull time for all children this is what Christmas meant to me:

First, as a chance to look backwards and forwards. Backwards to the incarnation and the gratitude that we have to God for stepping into the world, Immanuel. Then I would look forward to the second coming with joy, because there I see the completion of God’s promises to us. Third, I love turkey though I haven’t the chance to enjoy it!

***

I don’t think Christmas means much to me. It’s just a great chance for many young people now in China to have fun, or to be with friends and do something they like, e.g. go Karaoke or simply hang around.

Or perhaps there are some other reasons. People may regard themselves quite cool, in or fashinable for celebrating a western holiday instead of some “boring” Chinese traditional holiday. It’s what I think why Santa Claus is so popular in some big cities in China.

Christmas is fun, cool, but it’ll never take the place of Spring Festival, which gives a warm feeling of family love to every Chinese heart.

***

what’s up? you know what I am doing now — I am enjoying christmas songs in a Disney cd. To me, christmas is a reunion day for classmates in high school, of course, for me as well. We go to KTV, have a great meal, and enjoy ourselves to midnight. We are on the top of the world at that time just like on other gathering days.

So, i don’t know much about the origin or custom of christmas, and I don’t think it important for me to know that. Just be happy, just do whatever we want — that’s all!

I hope u can have a great christmas! — The same to me!

***

I expect every Christmas; while I fear every Christmas.

I expect the warm wishes of Christmas; while I fear the cold days of Christmas.
I expect the get-together with friends at Christmas; while I fear the cost of all the presents of Christmas…

Then, what does Christmas really mean to me?

It’s a good chance to meet friends whom I haven’t seen for a long time; it’s a right day to have the whole family get together for a rich dinner; it’s a great opportunity to have fun with a group of total strangers for the same urpose; it’s also a lucky time to make a vow to God for the coming year … yeah, Christmas is communion, communion with friends, family, strange people, even the God. If one has his or her beautiful wishes, he or she may give it to every one, meanwhile, he or she will recieve other’s wishes. So, my Christmas is communion of wishes.

***

When I was a little girl, I learnt from fairy tales that westeners had Christmas on 25th 12. I thought it’s a lovely festival. Father Christmas puts gifts in the stochings. And of course, there’re also Christmas trees. So I looked forword to Christmas. But when I grew up, I know there aren’t Father Christmas and moose that can fly in the world. And I don’t think there is such festival air in Shanghai. We just send cards to each other even sometimes I feel hollow-hearted. So now, “christmas” is just a beautiful childhood dream to me.

***

“Christmas” means a chance to send Christmas Cards to old friends and tell them what happen to me this year. It’s one of the important ways for us to keep touch with each other.

“Christmas” means a excuse to go out to play with my classmates and friends. As Christmas is a festival, so I think it’s the time for me to enjoy myself.

“Christmas” means a golden time to see films. At Christmas, many greats films is shown in cinema. For example, this year I can see 007 and the second film of the Lord of Ring. That’s great.

***

Christmas is not so important to me, to be frankly. We don’t have such days off to celebrate it. But I know many people working for those big transnational companies in Shanghai do have the Christmas holidays to observe the festival. But to us, we don’t have that long periods of time to do the preparations to hold a big party. I remember when I was in middle school and high school, I usually like going shoping with my mother in those commercial streets like HuaiHai Road or Xujiahui because many of them will have a discount. The streets in those days are really colorful while the decorations on the trees and neons in the high buildings match in beauty. Although we don’t hold party, we like hanging around to sense the Christmas atmosphere.

This Christmas eve, we have an afternoon off. I, together with the girls in our dorm am about to go to the church. That is interesting for us for we haven’t been there before, and after that, we may shop for something if they are on sale. The pity is that we don’t have so much time to be out for the school’s door will be closed before 11 at night. Christmas to me is a sufficient reason to leave aside those academic works and have some fun.

***

Christmas is coming! How excited we are! I know it is an important day in foreign counties. But I know it is also an important festival for us, students! In my opinion, Chinese Spring Festival is traditional and it lacks fervour! While Christmas is different, it belongs to us only!

Everytime I watch the TV program which shows the white scenery, the people who wear red Christmas caps, I admire them very much! The atmosphere is very wonderful! Before I entered the unversity, Christman means to me nothing, because we have a lot homework to do and have no extra time to celebrate it with my friends. Now things have changed! We can have a good time at that night!

I can make use of Christmas to do many things. I can relax myself completely, you know, this unversity has a systerm of three semesters. We have quick pace. Now Christmas Day will give me this good chance. The second thing is that we can have a Christmas party with my frinds. The friends who I have not seen each other for a long time can join in it. We can eat, sing and so on together. We can revel till tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I will be absent from my class and supplement my sleep! But I think it is worth for me! I know there will be no snow and have much difference from foreign counties. But I know it must be great happy to me!

Now I can celebrate the Christmas Day by myself rather than watch other people play happily! Christmas means to me is happiness, warmth, relaxation and friends!
I can not wait for its coming now!

May you have a wonderful Christmas Day!:)

12.25.2002, 7:58 AM · School

2 Comments


  1. Christmas time is about giving. It’s about spending time with your family. I love christmas!
    You sing carols, eat turkey.
    It’s also about: PRESENTS! lol :)


  2. to me christmas would mean to celebrate jesus’s birth and nothing else. So I would think you wrong for saying what you say christmas means
    Rebekah 10 Canada Ontario

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Shanghai Diaries is a website about Shanghai, China ... and lots of other stuff. Voted Best Mainland China Blog in the 2004 Asia Blog Awards.

Editor: Dan Washburn

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Dan is a freelance writer living in Shanghai. More about Dan.

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