After experiencing two Christmas holidays in China, I’ve realised it’s not celebrated quite the same way as it is in other countries. Read on to see how the Chinese celebrate the world’s favourite holiday. If you’re a Shanghai resident, you’ll be also gain advice for what to do this Christmas. Overall, this article will show you why it is treated as more of a Valentine’s day opposed to a family event, perhaps because of the proximity to the family orientated CNY at the start of February. This perspective is supported by the results of our interview with two dozen Chinese people and two dozen expats regarding their views on winter festivities in Shanghai. Let’s look below to see what everyone said!
90% of the expats interviewed attended some form of Christmas market, so let’s have a look at which markets stood out in 2018. Nearly all I spoke to agreed that the Paulaner Bräuhaus Christmas market on the east side of the Huangpu river (Pudong) was one of the main wonders of Christmas in Shanghai. It’s only popped up for a short time, but it featured amazing food, drinks and of course Christmas gifts. I’d also vouch for this market as it happened to make me feel like I was back at home walking through the streets of London’s Borough Market; a past time I’d enjoy on most Saturday mornings when on UK side. There was also a philanthropic feel with the opportunity to donate to charity; teddy bears being knitted by volunteers to raise money for students who need heart transplants. As well as this, only being 30rmb for entry, one expat expressed that they would have gone everyday if they could.
Other celebrations include the Jingan Christkindlmarkt which had a similar price but better accessibility for the expat community. However, this market seemed to lack variety in its offering in comparison to Paulaner Bräuhaus’s market, you can see it was a pretty small venue through the picture below.
Interestingly enough, whilst 90% of expats went to a Christmas market nearly the same figure of the Chinese people interviewed said they didn’t go. After sharing these statistics with locals, they believe the reason for the disparity in results is because expats tend to view Christmas slightly differently.
The expat visits to the Christmas Markets signify their want to get a taste of the Christmas atmosphere which might be more familiar to that of home. In contrast, most local people will get their festive fill from their companies annual party/dinner where they have the opportunity to exchange presents and Christmas love. It’s also worth noting that locals believe Christmas in China is seen as a chance to relax and increase connections between friends and lovers, it is romantic holiday before the busy family orientated Chinese New Year celebrations.
Now with a good picture built of Christmas in China, let’s look at how the worlds culture capital keeps up with the new year celebrations. The majority of western nations celebrate the New Year based on the solar calendar seeing it as the 1st of January. However the Chinese New Year follows observations of the lunisolar calendar with no fixed year date.
I asked the locals about their preference in celebrating NYE and the Chinese New year, 75% of people love to celebrate both festivals whilst 25% prefer to only celebrate CNY. I asked more questions about the main differences between the two celebrations and found that people think that NYE is all about partying whilst CNY is all about family reunion. The general consensus is that Chinese people put more emphasis on CNY which also obtains a longer national holiday. These results are not a surprise as opportunities are rife in Shanghai, with people from provinces all around China relocating; leaving their families behind to find working opportunities in Shanghai. Shanghai is a hot choice to relocate to being the first city in China to top 3 trillion yuan GDP back in 2017. It makes a lot of sense that people are using the longer holiday just around the corner to focus on family, rather than doing that with the Christmas and New years holiday.
The boom the world’s second most populated city has seen over recent years inspired my curiosity as to how the celebrations might have changed recently. I asked if the new year’s period has changed in Shanghai over the last few years, and the majority of people agree that it has.
Opions polls indicate that New year celebrations can see more native younger people engaging in the celebrations. Perhaps this is due to the increase in variety of events to attend accompanied with the heightening levels of disposable personal income in Shanghai.
It’s worth mentioning that many interviews stressed how Shanghai turns into a ghost town during CNY, where large amounts of locals will be leaving Shanghai during the celebrations to travel to their home provinces. As well as this, many expats will also be using their vacation time to explore other provinces and local countries. If you’ve decided to stay in Shanghai or if you are coming to Shanghai at any stage around CNY, check out our events page to keep you occupied.
Thanks for reading this far. We both welcome your feedback and would love to read about what you love to do during the festive times in Shanghai below.