Chinese cherish culture over business at Christmas

Updated: 2013-12-25 06:18


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BEIJING - Christmas shopping fever that has swept China for the past decade has died down this year.

In southern city of Guangzhou, while all shopping malls have decorated their windows with Christmas ornaments, few bothered with sales promotions.

E-commerce is making tens of billions of profits with two rounds of "Cyber Monday" which fell on Nov. 11 and Dec. 12 this year.

Within one month, the Chinese celebrate Spring Festival, the most important festival of all. Shoppers may be choosing to save money for special purchases later, said an industry insider.

Most restaurants in downtown Guangzhou, especially those in areas where foreign companies congregate, offer set menus on Christmas eve, but the average price has dropped considerably.

"In the past, a set meal on Christmas eve cost 300 to 400 yuan (50 to 65 U.S. dollars) in an ordinary restaurant. This year I can enjoy a splendid meal in the five-star Four Seasons Hotel for the same amount of money," said a resident surnamed Liang.

Although retail and catering markets are cooling down, post offices are gaining great popularity.

While many families still know little about the religious aspects of the festival, they considered it a nice occasion to share happiness and get together with family and friends.

Santa Claus' Post Office opened in Guangzhou at the beginning of December. Three branches of the post office at three city landmarks receive up to 2,000 customers each day.

On Tuesday afternoon, Xue Weiwen, 45, went to the branch at Huacheng Square and stamped special Christmas postmarks on postcards. It is a special service offered by Santa Claus' Post Office since 2009.

"I've collected all the postmarks from the three branches and I'll send postcards to my friends while keeping some for myself," said Xue.

He has been a big fan of the post office for four years and took one of his friends Li Fuding with him this year.

Li wrote "Merry Christmas" in Chinese calligraphy and affixed a red cartoon seal to his work. He said it was a refreshing new experience.

The post office also has a Santa Claus' delivery team, offering paid services to deliver Christmas gifts from door to door.

The team leader Yan Huchen said most of their customers are parents who want Christmas gifts to be sent to children by Santa Claus.

"It was our original intention to offer a Christmas dream to children that Santa Claus does exist when we first set up the team," said Yan.

To extend love to students in remote areas, Santa Clauses like Yan delivered books, stationery and sporting goods donated by residents on Christmas eve.

"Did you hear the kids stamping their feet? They are overjoyed to see me," Yan told Xinhua over the phone.

People in the north have shown their enthusiasm towards the festival despite the heavy smog. On Christmas Eve in Beijing, thousands of Catholics went to Mass at the South Cathedral, one of the city's oldest cathedrals.

Volunteers sold Christmas-related products including Chinese version of Bible stories and red candles outside the Cathedral.

Zhang Hong, one of the volunteers, is a devout Christian who attends Mass everyday. "Today, I came earlier to leave the space for more people to attend Mass and spend Christmas here. It's a good opportunity for Chinese people to understand Christian culture," said Zhang.

Besides those who take a more faith-based approach to Christmas, there are many who are curious about western culture and religion like Wang Liang, in the capital on business.

"I'm not Christian, but the time I spent in Tibet made me curious and interested in religion," said Wang.

Zhang Ziqi, 10, found the Cathedral the most interesting place on Christmas Eve. "Although we are not Christian, we enjoy the festive atmosphere and we want to let the kids know more about western culture," said Zhang Tao, the father.

At the Cathedral in Fengtai District, kindergarten teacher Yang Xiaoyu, 19, sang songs and offered ginger tea to people who waiting outside.

Yang's mother converted to Christianity three years ago after she was diagnosed with cancer and Yang followed in her mother's footsteps out of curiosity.

It's the first time she worked as a volunteer on Christmas and she has already felt the happiness of loving people.