China does not officially celebrate Christmas. It is a regular work day for almost everyone. The exceptions are some foreigners get the day off; my school closes because they know no one wants to have class on Christmas, but I know several people who teach or study in universities that have to give or take exams on Christmas Day. And yet, Christmas is a big business in Beijing. I’m not sure if it has spread across the entire country to the whole extent or if it is the cosmopolitan nature of the capital. It would be hard to miss that it is Christmas time in Beijing.
And yet, in Beijing, Christmas is everywhere and it has been for weeks. Back in Christmas of 2005 when I was teaching in a very small city, the few Christmas items came out about December 23. That included a few Christmas cards at one of the supermarkets. In Beijing in 2014, Starbucks has been decorated, carrying holiday drinks, and playing Christmas music since November 1. Other places started decorating a few weeks ago. By now, most stores have some sort of tree, wreath, garland, or paper Santa hanging. Chinese idea of good decorations and American are not always the same. I have never seen so many gaudy baubles, flashing lights, and over-decorated stockings as in the places that sell Christmas things. You can even get very unique and creepy items like a life size, dancing, plastic Santa.
I don’t think that the average Chinese person decorates their home for Christmas. Those that celebrate do it with food and friends. It feels to me like the way (white) Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo. It is a thing–a big thing, even–but there isn’t much emotional attachment to it. It is a fun time to get together with friends, eat some good food, and (probably) do some drinking. Why we’re doing it and getting together with family aren’t the most important things. Lots of Chinese people go out for Christmas Eve, and I think the Western (and quasi-Western) restaurants are especially busy. Supposedly, rush hour will begin at 3pm tomorrow. My teacher said that people just like a reason to get together and eat with friends.