Christmas in China is a unique experience.
On Christmas Eve, I went to a tasty feast arranged by InternChina. The good food and company put me in the festive spirit. To continue with the celebrations, I made a spontaneous decision to go to Guangzhou with a couple of friends on Christmas Morning.
After a rush to throw my things in a bag, I jumped into a taxi to get to the train station. By the time we had arrived, there was a queue out the door, and the train was set to leave in under twenty minutes. My friends and I had already reserved the tickets online, but we still had to collect them at the counter. Fortunately, we all managed to get our tickets and we caught the train on time.
The journey was off to a good start.
The journey took just over an hour.
Guangzhou South Railway Station is huge and modern. It’s a fair distance from the city centre, but a 24-hour pass cost only 20rmb.
The metro system is clean, bright and modern. They have driverless cars, the carriages are wide and every station has glass screens with automatic doors at the edge of the platform.
When we arrived at the hostel, we found out that the government currently has a policy of not allowing foreigners to stay in hostels, which seemed strange. But this wasn’t a problem and we stayed in a nearby hotel.
Once we dropped off our bags, we could start exploring. The city is loud and animated. After walking around, we got some lunch on Beijing Road.
I tried some of the famous bubble tea.
As evening approached, we walked around the park on Yuexiu Mountain, where we saw The Five Rams. They are meant to bring good fortune to the city.
We then made our way to the Flower City Square, near the Pearl River, where we got a good view of the Canton Tower. This structure is an impressive feat of architecture. It stands at 600 meters, making it the third tallest tower in the world.
After some more walking around and being taken in by the lively atmosphere and the modern cityscape, we got some dinner and returned to the hotel to get some rest.
On Boxing Day, we went to the China Communist Party’s Third Congress Museum. It was all in Chinese, but my friends were very helpful by translating the key points.
We then headed over to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall Museum, which was an academic temple. It is a site of historic and cultural significance, and it contains a number of beautiful pieces of artwork, from pottery to wood carvings and ivory.
Another attraction that we went to see was the Nanyue King’s Tomb in the Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum. This was interesting and informational. I learnt that the King was buried with fifteen sacrificial people.
The last site that we saw was Shamian Island, which offers a glimpse into China’s colonial past. The island is a tranquil, scenic stretch of land that is shaded by trees and contains old colonial-era buildings. The southern side is encircled by the Pearl River. A canal separates the northern part from the mainland. Shamian Island was given to the UK and France in the nineteenth century.
The building that caught my attention the most was the old Soviet Union Consulate, which is now abandoned and has fallen into a state of disrepair.
After dinner, we made our way to the railway station and caught a late train back to Zhuhai. It was a different Christmas experience, for sure.
If you’d also like to experience the exciting cultural differences between the UK and China, apply for the GEN UK funding now!
Christmas in China was very different from myself and the other interns are used to. After a few discussions about the differences in an Irish, Spanish and German Christmas, we ended up thinking about the very obvious differences we were going to experience in China.
The first huge difference is that sadly Christmas isn’t a holiday in China, however the period is still full of the usual craziness I have come to expect from Qingdao. Hong Kong and Macau however do celebrate Christmas on the 25th December with a public holiday!
Christmas Eve, a quiet night in with family for me at home and the day of the main event for the Spanish and German interns, sees apples sold in brightly coloured paper because the Chinese for Christmas Eve, “Ping An Ye” (meaning quiet or silent night) sounds similar to the Chinese for apple, “Ping Guo”. Secondly, in the food court beside the Qingdao office it would seem that unfortunately, Jingle Bells is the only Christmas carol known.
While Christmas isn’t widely celebrated across China, it is becoming more well known and in the cities which are aware of the holiday the decorations are big and beautiful. There is certainly very little evidence of the religious aspects of the holiday, however the traditional icons such as trees, lights, snowmen and reindeer appear everywhere. Some Chinese people know the Christmas tree as a “Tree of Light”, and they are often decorated with paper chains, flowers and lanterns, rather than the usual baubles, angels and tinsel.
Christmas for many in the West is an obvious religious holiday as well as being a time to spend with family and friends, but for those in China who do choose to celebrate, it is a time for family and friends with very few people actually being aware that Christmas is a religious holiday. I was invited by a Chinese friend to attend church on Christmas Eve though which I found surprising!
One major concern for us was the lack of Christmas markets, but luckily for Qingdao we had our very own traditional German market to attend… complete with glühwein, a nativity scene, a huge Christmas tree and ” weckmännchen” (think of a fat gingerbread man, made of bread, complete with a small clay pipe.)
Our weekly Thursday dinner was spent trying to find a suitable substitute for a traditional Christmas dinner… but of course, what was traditional for each of the interns was very different. There were an abundance of both Chinese and Western restaurants offering Christmas dinner and buffets, so we were spoiled for choice either way. In Qingdao and Zhuhai we were lucky enough to have a traditional home cooked Christmas dinner, and Chengdu were treated to a Christmas buffet, so the Chinese food didn’t disappoint on this occasion!
Some of the Qingdao interns also took a trip to Harbin over the Christmas weekend to visit the Ice Festival, while Zhuhai spent the weekend practicing their archery… so none of us had a “traditional” Christmas, but we had fun experiencing something new! Among the crazy decorations, continuously amazing Chinese food and good company, Christmas in China was another fantastic experience for all of us.
Now to see how New Year’s Eve is celebrated!
Merry Christmas and 圣诞快乐！
We hope you will enjoy your Christmas in China this year. Have a great time with your friends and family. Stuff yourself at one of our Christmas dinners and have a drink or two. 2014 has been a great year for us and we sure enjoyed our time with all of our interns. Therefore we wish all our past, current and future interns a Merry Christmas or Shengdan Kuaile – 圣诞快乐!
All of us interns are a long way from home and most of us who weren’t able to go home to spend Christmas with the family decided to get together to celebrate this year’s festivities.
In China, they really try with Christmas but in my opinion you can’t feel the Christmas spirit churning inside you as you would back at home in Europe. I would say most of the interns will agree with this! Back at home, as early as November, radio stations will be blasting out Christmas tunes, Christmas lights are placed on the street lights in the city centre and not to mention the amazing German Christmas Markets around (I really need to visit Germany to experience the real thing!). You do get a lot of Christmas decorations in China but it just doesn’t have the same Christmassy feel as back home.
At the office on Christmas Eve, to try and get ourselves into the Christmas spirit mood we played Christmas music all day long (thanks to Brigitte’s extensive playlist!). Some of the songs that were played, were our first time hearing it this year, so we weren’t in the slightest annoyed about hearing it over and over again all day long! We were working very hard as usual aswell! In China, Christmas Day is still a working day but luckily enough we had the day off, so we all decided to head out and have a few drinks later to celebrate that evening.
The next day, Christmas started very late for some of us who went out the night before. If you didn’t know already, Chinese homes rarely have an oven as there is no need for one as most of the local cuisine is made using a wok. Having said that, if you really need one you can buy a portable at the supermarket! We were lucky enough that Jenny our Office Manager has one. It’s definitely too small to roast a turkey with all the trimmings, but definitely big enough to bake some Christmas treats! The cookies were so good we forgot to take some pictures of the cookies after they were baked.
Those of us who weren’t busy cooking cut some snow flakes out of paper to decorate the place while listening to christmas music. To finish the evening of good food and good company we all made our selves comfortable and as tradition watched a Christmas movie – ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’.
If you want to join us to celebrate upcoming holidays together, then apply now!
Before I came to China there was nothing I was really worried about except for the Christmas period. I knew that it would be my first Christmas without my family and on top of that, I will spend it in a country that doesn’t even celebrate my favourite festival of the year.
But during these few weeks I realized that there was nothing to worry about. I don’t have to miss the delicious gingerbread smell, shiny lights and cute decorations because Chinese people seem to like these Christmas things as much as we do. And Christmas is everywhere in China.
Usually the beginning of December is the best time to visit Christmas markets in Germany and the Intercontinental Hotel in Qingdao opened its doors for their Third Annual Christmas market just in time. But they didn’t only serve delicious food; Christmas tree cupcakes and cute handmade Christmas decorations created the perfect Christmas atmosphere.
And it is not only a Christmas market; the feeling of Christmas is everywhere. On my way to work I pass “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” wishes in the shop windows all along. All of the big Shopping malls have their own decoration; some of them are adorned with beautiful shiny lights and paper stars and others even build up a whole forest of shiny Christmas trees.
My favourite decoration is definitely the huge horse carousel that I pass on my way to work, though I have never seen it in use.
All the small shops and bakeries have their shop windows decorated with gingerbread houses, snowmen and opulently decorated Christmas trees. And you are constantly surrounded by Christmas music and the smell of freshly baked cookies.
The Chinese kids have English Christmas parties where they decorate home-made gingerbread cookies with colourful frosting and receive presents from Santa Clause as soon as they learn how to say “Merry Christmas”.
And its not only the decoration and the music that brings Christmas to China. Most of the restaurants and hotels offer great events to join on Christmas Eve. You can find everything, from exotic Thai Christmas celebrations to traditional Christmas dinners with goose. I am sure there is the perfect Christmas dinner for everyone. And after enjoying a delicious dinner you can attend one of the numerous Christmas parties with your friends. There are special Christmas offers everywhere.
With this atmosphere, I am looking forward to Christmas and, except for the fact that my family is not with me, there is nothing else I have to miss!
If you’d like to learn more about China, then apply now!
My name is Helen and I’m from the UK. I arrived a few days ago and I am looking forward to the 6 months ahead as part of the InternChina team in Chengdu.
I have actually been to Chengdu before, so it’s very familiar to me. I first came in 2011 to study Mandarin. Initially a plan of just staying one semester turned into three semesters! I decided to stay longer when my friend came to visit me after the first semester, I was her tour guide for the week and I must admit I sometimes struggled with the language barrier which made me feel as though I hadn’t learned enough! Nevertheless we still had a great time and almost freezed ourselves to death visiting Emei Mountain during the Spring Festival period.
I started to grow more attached to Chengdu the longer I stayed. The culture, the food and the lifestyle. So, why did I leave Chengdu? Simple. I had used all the money I had saved, so it was time to return home. When I saw that InternChina had opened an office in Chengdu and were looking for an intern, I just had to apply, so now I am here again having on left earlier this year!
From the very first day, I have received a very warm welcome from everyone at InternChina (including lots of welcome messages from the other two offices based in Qingdao and Zhuhai). They have already made me feel at home and as part of the team! A very special thanks to Brigitte and Paul who waited at the airport until 2am with snacks and water at hand! Surprisingly, we all still managed to get into the office for an early start the next day. 🙂
I had a spot of a trouble with my luggage, it didn’t arrive in Chengdu as it was suppose to but it finally made it’s way back to me within a couple of days. InternChina have been extremely helpful and it’s only my third day here! If you’re a new intern coming to work at InternChina or even through them, don’t worry, if you have any problems just ask someone and they will provide support for whatever your needs may be.
I will be spending Christmas here again, and it will actually be my third one away from home and I know that it will probably be like my first but with the interns in Chengdu.
It’s Christmas time- even in the South of China! You always though Christmas isn’t a big thing in China? Then you are right. It isn’t. I totally forgot that before I came here. The first package with ginger cookies from home arrived and I knew I need to do something. Fortunately that wasn’t a big deal, as you can walk from Zhuhai to Macau:
Chocolate-mint cupcakes, Ice-skating, snow, Christmas trees, Santa Clause, Candy and Christmas music!
Just go, see and enjoy!!!
It’s Christmas time! Even in China! For all of us who couldn’t get in Christmas mood yet with plastic trees and decoration, we (Internchina Team Qingdao) went to Christmas dinner together.
In the small but really nice restaurant “Café Roland” in Badaguan, we had our private little Internchina table. Although the restaurant’s name sounds German, they offer Mediterranean food, mainly Italien and Spanish. After delicious entries from salad, over pizza-bread to scallops, we had pizza, noodles and paella. Together with some fancy drinks and a nice and cozy atmosphere it was a great start into Christmas time in China. A huge “Thank You!” to Yifan and Frank who invited us all this evening 🙂
We wish everyone a happy Christmas time and if you feel like a cup of “Glühwein” or some Christmas cookies, feel free to drop by and we celebrate together 🙂
I am back from my Christmas holidays in Hong Kong and I must say it was amazing. Although the city is a bit expensive (taxi fare starts at 18 HK$ and goes up every 200 meters or so, by 2; the MTR (subway) is comparable to that in Shanghai (around 6-9$)), it is also one of the nicest cities I have visited so far. It never gets boring there: you can party at night in Lan Kwai Fong (exit central station of MTR), go shopping in big malls with every store imaginable (like Elements at Kowloon Station), visit street and night markets in Stanley, Mong Kok and almost every street corner or spend a day or two in the amusement parks there (the Disneyland Resort or Ocean Park).
But what I especially enjoyed, was island hopping. From the Central Ferry Piers on Hong Kong Island you can get to the main outlying islands of Peng Chau, Cheung Chau, Lamma and Lantau, including Discovery Bay.
Peng Chau is the smallest of all, and has a wonderful little harbour town. The beaches are not that nice there, but you can go up finger hill and have a nice view over the little island.
Cheung Chau is bigger (they even have a Mc Donald’s on that island, but the Mc Flurry machine is broken). It has more to offer than Peng Chau like a pirate cave, pancake shaped rocks (I can’t remember if it really was a pancake, I just remember a lot of steps and a nasty tasting water melon) and a haunted house.
Lamma Island is the biggest of these three islands and really worth visiting, although there are a lot of tourists. The beaches are very nice and you can have a fantastic hike there (if you wander of the main trail, there aren’t even any people! Awsum!)
Yes and Lantau island (which apparently is even bigger than Hong Kong Island) is a must visit. The landscape is breathtaking, the beaches clean, white and beautiful and the best thing is the biggest outdoor, sitting Buddha of the world.
You also can take a ferry from Wan Chai to Macau, aka Las Vegas (which is about 150$ per trip and person). Once there, don’t mind taking public busses, just take the shiniest bus provided by the casinos at the ferry pier. They are free of charge and depart frequently.
If you want to visit the ruin church of St. Paul, take the casino bus to Grand Lisboa. You can walk from there.
Ohja, on a side note: you can use HK $ or the local currency over there. Both works fine.
Yes, that’s it for now and from my little trip.