|Changing the colour of Christmas (12/25/01)|
"For Chinese people, Christmas is more an opportunity to go out with their families and friends than a time for religious reflection," said Yang Hong, a young Beijing office employee, who was planning to go to a bar with her colleagues last night.
A Horizon Research survey indicates that Yang is not unusual.
Most well-known hotels, restaurants and bars were fully booked for Christmas Eve days ago.
"Our hotel has three ticket prices for the Christmas Eve Party -- 688 yuan (US$82.89), 998 yuan (US$119.04) and 1,500 yuan (US$180.72). All of them were sold three days before Christmas, much earlier than last year," said Fan Yingying with Beijing Hotel.
The Hard Rock Coffee prepared a special night -- The Angel and Harmony Christmas Party -- designed to draw in the young crowd.
Many others like to go shopping on Christmas Eve, getting in the holiday mood on the one hand and picking up goods on sale on the other.
Brilliantly illuminated trees and festively decorated store windows were everywhere in the city, making shopping malls and supermarkets more colourful and lively.
Sales are the biggest attraction for customers. "I always buy more things at Christmas and New Year than at other times, because many shops will offer significant discounts," said a teacher who was choosing Christmas gifts in Carrefour.
On university campuses, the festival atmosphere was even stronger. Beautiful Christmas trees, gifts, cards and posters announcing parties were to be seen everywhere.
Students planned their activities long before Christmas. "I will spent the festival with my girl friend. We are going to see a movie together, then buy a cake and share it beside the Weiming Lake," said a sophomore in Peking University.
Still many others swarmed to churches to spend their Christmas Eve.
The Catholic church on bustling Wangfujing Street in the city's downtown area, with a beautiful Christmas tree at its door, was already surrounded by hundreds of people at 7 pm last night waiting for entry. The ceremony, however, was slated for 9:30 pm.
Most of them were young people, lovers and students in particular.
Foreigners in Beijing, on the other hand, tend to go to bars or held small parties at home on Christmas Eve.
A young man from Canada told China Daily: "the Christmas atmosphere here in Beijing is hot but completely different from what is in my hometown.''
"I feel people here care more about selling products,'' said the man,named Brian, who has a job in Tokyo and came to Beijing to spend his vacation.
He said: "When I was in Canada, I usually spent Christmas Eve at home with my parents and grandparents, and enjoyed having dinner with them and preparing presents for each other.''
When asked his plans for Christmas, Brian told the reporter excitedly that he was going to visit the Great Wall.
Local residents in Beijing seemed to be enjoying this "alien'' holiday just as much or even more than the foreigners.
A pair of young lovers, with red Santa Claus caps on their heads, kissed each other in front of the church.
A woman with a rose in her hand, kept smiling shyly when she was asked how she and her boyfriend would spend Christmas Eve.
Many Chinese families also went to the church last night, taking photos in front of the church.
A father with a 10-year-old son said that his family used to celebrate only New Year's Day and the Spring Festival but that in recent years they had begun to celebrate Christmas as well.
"My son loves Santa Claus very much,'' said the father.
"Anyway, we like to have more holidays in our life,'' he said.