Christmas is not a public holiday in mainland China. In remote areas, and where there are few Christians and foreigners, Chinese people don’t celebrate Christmas. Overall, many Chinese don’t celebrate Christmas.
China’s Christians (only 1% of the population officially) generally celebrate Christmas religiously. They attend the special services at the church, and do carol singings at their home. On Christmas eve, there is choir, dance and drama performances. It is called ‘Peaceful Evening’ (Ping’an Ye 平安夜 from the translation of the carol “Silent Night”). Many Chinese Christians celebrate Christmas as their top event of the year, leaving behind the Chinese New Year.
In mandarin Chinese “Merry Christmas” is ‘圣诞快乐Sheng Dan Kuai Le.’ Santa is known as ‘圣诞老人Sheng dan Lao ren,” which translates literally to Old Christmas Man.
However, in large cities, Christmas celebration is different. Due to the vast amount of foreigners, Christmas has become an annual event in these cities.
In fact, it has become a widely commercialized holiday, with all the trappings of a national holiday. On the streets and in department stores, there are Christmas trees, lights, and decorations. You’ll hear Christmas music playing from the end of November, over the noise of the crowds shopping for Christmas season promotions.
In Beijing, Christmas is celebrated with keen interest by the young generation. It is seen as an occasion for a get together and giving presents. Christmas in Beijing is mainly commercial; it is a busy shopping season. Some of the major hotels have special Christmas dinners, and people can also be reminded of the original meaning of Christmas at churches in Beijing.
Shanghai is a centre for world trade and a place where East meets West. In a modern, highly-developed city, smart shopkeepers don’t lose any opportunity to sell their products. Most shops in the downtown area get decorated to attract visitors in the holiday period. Christmas carols are heard everywhere.