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Christmas in China

I spent 12 days in China with my family over Christmas this year, a whirlwind tour that took us to seven different cities, including the birth-cities of my two adopted daughters.  In a series of blog posts this week, I recount a few observations from the trip.


Last I heard, the Communist Party in China wasn’t that enthusiastic about Christianity.  You never would have known it spending Christmas there with my family a few months back.

We arrived in the Beijing airport to the sounds of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer playing in the background.  Pretty much the only music we heard the whole trip was Christmas music.  This was true not just in places frequented by tourists, but also in shopping malls and restaurants as far-flung as Nanchang and Zhenjiang  — two cities where we didn’t see a single American in two days.  In contrast to the United States, Christmas music didn’t cease and desist on December 25, either.  On January 1st, Christmas carols were still going strong on the player piano in the lobby of our Hong Kong hotel. As we headed for home on the 2nd, however, the holiday tunes had finally given way to The Carpenters greatest hits.

Every hotel featured a towering artificial Christmas tree and a special Christmas dinner offering.  Santa Claus was ubiquitous, both in inanimate form and in the flesh handing out presents to children in the Beijing airport.  The hotel left stockings filled with nuts and candy on our pillows. 

Most incongruously, at a Buddhist shrine, almost in the shadow of an enormous statue of Buddha, a snow machine churned out artificial snow as Santa’s elves were hard at work.