Bettering Christmas in Beijing

By Lisa Linssen Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/19 19:58:40

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

Christmas time has arrived, oh what a joy! Who doesn't love this season?

Flashing green and red lights, the smell of pine trees, mulled wine and candied almonds fill the streets. The singing and humming of jingling bells and a steady "Ho, ho, ho" everywhere. The snow makes everything look so much more like Christmas and children's growing excitement towards all the great gifts and the amazing food is hard to withstand. Everyone always seems more festive and happy for Christmas preparation and it's the one time during the year that really no one can resist eating all those amazing home-baked cookies.

But wait, the picture I just described is of Christmas season in the West. In Beijing, the pre-Christmas time is very different.

Christmas is traditionally not celebrated in China and even though people appreciate Christmas decorations (favorably all year long) and music (also often all year long), getting into the festive spirit requires a little more effort in China than it does back home.

Probably most of your favorite Christmas sweets, chocolates, cookies and other goodies specifically made in your home country will be difficult to find. That is just the start of your search.

Whereas back home, all of the shops will eventually shift into the Christmas mood and one is bombed with Christmas decorations, candy, liquor etc. Additionally, if a lot of your favorite Christmas sweets and foods are not sold in the store, don't be upset. You can still enjoy them when you go back home if the cookies and your favorite sweets are usually made by your family members.

One thing that is very important, at least for most Europeans, is to visit a Christmas market.

A Christmas market is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent, which is always the four weeks before Christmas when people light an Advent candle on each of the four Sundays.

For most Europeans, Christmas is not Christmas if one hasn't at least consumed one cup of overpriced mulled wine at one of the Christmas markets.

Luckily, the foreign community in Beijing is very keen on bringing their traditions to China, so one can find a Christmas market. But getting its tickets is a whole other challenge. The German Christmas Market was particularly competitive to get tickets this year. One had to pre-order by phone in order to even have a small chance of getting a ticket. They seemed to have sold out within minutes.

Of course, many of the restaurants around will also have mulled wine, goose, red cabbage and other festive items on the menu, but the menu prices can get costly.

Spending 600 to 1,000 yuan on Christmas food in restaurants is not uncommon. So, while being in China I can save money on presents, since most of my family and friends are not around, at the same time I spend a lot of money on food and drinks. Last week, I spent seven euros on a quarter-filled glass of mulled wine in a bar. When I asked them why the glass is emptier than full, they told me it's to make me fully appreciate their amazing mulled wine.


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