Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas is for Shopping...

Every year that I'm in China over the holiday season, Christmas becomes more and more commercialized. In 2003, there was barely a mention of Christmas. It was all about the upcoming Chinese New Year. Now you see Christmas trimmings, huge Christmas trees and lights everywhere-especially in public shopping areas. There is even a section of DaHu Tong (A huge wholesale shopping district) which now sells all kinds of gaudy Christmas junk! "What do most Chinese think about Christmas?" I asked my local friend. "Don't you know?" she responded in disbelief. "It's for shopping and giving gifts...and of course for going out with your boyfriend on Christmas Eve to Bin Jiang Dao! That's fun!" I will admit that it is nice to have a little Christmas spirit here as opposed to nothing at all, but Christmas as we know it in the West is nothing like Christmas in China. This year our organization was asked to get associates sing Christmas songs on a huge stage on the busiest shopping street (Bin Jiang Dao) in Tianjin just before midnight. Having been on this street last Christmas and witnessing the craziness of an all-out New Years Eve type of party with 10,000 of your closest Chinese friends, I was not anxious to do that again. But since this was for the organization and we would be receiving both money and publicity for JHF's Special Education Program, I agreed to participate. It was a freezing cold night with 40 mph winds to boot. Because there is no snow here, the organizers has snow machines going to simulate the effect. Unfortunately, the flakes were made of soap, which I didn't find out until after i tried to catch a snowflake on my tongue! Yuck! There were jugglers, magicians, and even Michael Jackson look-alike dancers making merry on the stage. In the crowds. people donned their Santa hats, costumes, devil horns, Halloween and Mardi Gras feathered masks and blinking bunny ears in preparation for a good time. Just before midnight, our "choir" took to the stage to perform. Knowing as foreigners we would have serious "crowd-drawing" power, the officials sent their best 24 Kong fu riot police to stand in front of the stage and hold back the would-be rowdy crowds. When we sang JingBells and the crowd got excited- joining in the singing! We followed up with Joy to the World and whipped up a frenzy and when we got to We Wish You a Merry Christmas (in both English and Chinese) the crowd went wild! We were rock stars, man! Screaming girls, flashing cameras and the TV station filming for a showing at a later date. We counted down the seconds (10, 9, 8....) until 1 and then the cannons shot off millions of little pieces of gold confetti into the air as people shouted "Merry Christmas!" We had to leave the stage for a few minutes and then came back for an encore of Silent Night in multiple languages. People were swaying back and forth holdingup their cell phones, and battery operated lights as if they were really believing the message. This was anything but a Silent Night! These are the times when I realize how foreign I am in this culture and how foreign my beliefs are as well. Sometim es I ask myself how these two world can ever be on the same page with the deep things of life, but that's when I remember that these are not new questions. They have been asked for centuries. This is the very message and mystery of Christmas. Those things that are beyond human understanding have already been taken care of. There is a perfect plan, a perfect child, a love that makes all things new and in the fullness of time it will be seen. In most every culture Santa has his place but...Joy to the World the Lord is Come!