Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas in Shanghai? You bet 'cha!

Yeah, you could say Christmas is here in a very commerical way. It's the music, festive decorations, special set dinners offered by restaurants and hotels, parties, and the holiday promotions at the department stores. Christmas has turned into another opportunity to encourage those with new spending power to buy, buy, buy.

This past week, the basement of the Shanghai Landmark Department store was in absolute chaos. You could barely move with the people digging through bins and racks of sweaters, coats, socks and underware. The really good deals are usually in the basement of most department stories. Almost all the department stores here take up 8 floors. It can be overwhelming at times! (While it's packed in the basement, the other floors - featuring more expensive goods - have more sales people than shoppers. This topic is for another post.)

The other day, I walked through grocery asles of soysauce and sesame oil, pickled eggs, and dried fish to hear in the background..."Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it away. Next year, to save me from tears, I'm going to give it someone special...special." First, I thought, "Not that song again!" Then I thought, "This just feels strange!" The grocery store, Carrefour, is all decked out in tinsle and lights, Merry Christmas signs, and Christmas deals. Decent wine for less than $20 U.S. dollars. I'll take it! (Josh and I tried a Chinese brand of cabernet last month and it wasn't drinkable. We're also not picky wine drinkers.)

It is a little comforting to experience some form of Christmas here, but I also get that overwhelming sense that something is missing. In the U.S., we can get swept up in buying presents and parties. Usually, we do let things slow down to spend time with family, enjoy family traditions, give to those less fortunate, and for some religious denominations, celebrate the birth of Jesus. You won't get that type of ending here and I wouldn't expect it. The Chinese are simply celebrating Christmas how they see it presented in other countries like the U.S.

I struggle with what the take away message is from all of this. Maybe it's our role to show a more complete picture of what the holiday season can mean. I know, it's something that I'll be thinking about...

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