The Nanfang / Blog

How to Celebrate Christmas in China: Crowds, Dating, Eating Eggs and Apples

Posted: 12/25/2014 4:22 pm
xmas yuzhou henan ski promotion

A recent ski promotion in Yuzhou, Henan.

When it comes to celebrating Christmas, Chinese do it in their own unique way. Celebrating the holiday has slowly caught on in China over the past decade, but it doesn’t resemble the traditions the west would recognize. Family gatherings and big meals are reserved for Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, while Christmas is taking up the spot associated with revelry, parties, and romance.

christmas shenzhen

Celebrating Christmas Eve in Shenzhen with “falling snow”.

Gone are the familiar sights of the nativity scene, turkey and stuffing, egg nog, goofy seasonal sweaters, or mistletoe. In China, there are no cultural references of It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, A Miracle on 34th StreetRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman.

Instead, Chinese use Christmas Even as a chance to go out and have dinner with their friends, converge in public places, and find the “meaning of Christmas” (with Chinese characteristics, of course). For example, this boisterous party in Wuhan, Hubei:

xmas wuhan hubei crowd

In Kunming, Yunnan, the crowd got a little rowdy when people began to spray each other with fake snow:

xmas kunming yunnan crowdxmas kunming yunnan crowd

As they did in Guiyang, Guizhou:

xmas guiyang guizhou crowdBut the crowd to beat all others was in Chongqing:

And then there’s the social aspect of celebrating Christmas in China. Many Chinese find themselves under pressure to find a date for this social occasion. Christmas Eve is a dreadful occasion for Chinese that are single, many of whom who took to Weibo to commiserate.

Besides large crowds and hanging out with friends, Chinese have been finding their own new ways to celebrate the holiday. Since the Chinese word for “Christmas” contains a homophone for eggs, competitive eater Pan Yizhong decided to eat 160 eggs because it ”seemed like an appropriate time to eat eggs.” Pan took 40 minutes to quaff down 150 quail eggs and ten chicken eggs (below).

christmas eggsEggs aren’t the only food associated with Christmas. Apple also shares a homophone with the word “peace”, and Christmas Eve is known in Chinese as the “Night of Peace”. That means apples have become a popular gift at Christmas, complete with higher prices.

Meanwhile, Santa is generally well-known in China but there might be some confusion about his defining physical trait. A Weibo contest with the hashtag #FakeChristmasBeardContest encouraged people to send in photos of themselves wearing Santa’s trademark white woolly beard. It started off like this:

xmas santa beard contestThen morphed into this:

xmas santa beard contestxmas santa beard contest

In whichever form, Christmas still has its detractors in China. In Xi’an, a university disallowed its students to take part in any festivities on Christmas Eve, instead forcing them to watch propaganda films. Over in Changsha, Hunan, university students wearing traditional Chinese clothing carried signs denouncing Christmas at a holiday event (below).

xmas changsha protest xmas changsha protest With all of these differences, Chinese culture may have lost out on the references that make Christmas what it is in the west. However, it’s difficult to learn more about Christmas in China without its characterization as a rowdy holiday getting in the way.

The Shenyang Liaoning Evening Post sent out this Weibo post that purported to list 200 appropriate songs for Christmas Eve. However, anyone opening the file is instead confronted with these words:

Do you honestly plan to spend this night listening to songs?

Photos: 8099999 (2), Jingshi Live, Guizhou UniversityTianjin Culinary Picks, Weibo (1, 2, 3, 4), QQ Newsxywy, telegraph


Plan Early: You Can Soon Buy Train Tickets in China 60 Days Ahead

Posted: 11/18/2014 9:47 am
chunyun spring festival chinese new year train

Imagine yourself in this crowd. Now Imagine yourself not even having a ticket.

Chinese trains are expected to fill up much earlier once tickets become available for sale 60 days before the journey, much earlier than the current 20 days. It will have all kinds of implications, particularly on those wanting to head home during Spring Festival.

The change will happen on December 1, which means train tickets for Spring Festival will be available in December rather than in January or even February.

The 2015 Spring Festival holiday break is tentatively scheduled for February 19 to February 25, with Spring Festival itself taking place on February 19. A ticket to travel on February 18, the eve of Spring Festival, will be available for sale on December 21.

Chunyun, the annual travel period that sees millions of Chinese return to their home towns and villages, is the largest mass migration of people in the world. An estimated 3.62 billion trips were taken during the 40 days surrounding this past Spring Festival.

Photos: People’s Daily, zg1929


Not sure whether you should give a hong bao? Wonder no more!

Posted: 01/24/2014 5:23 pm

We first came across this handy flow-chart on Weixin, posted by the imitable David Strand of The Strand Beer Cafe in Guangzhou (if you haven’t been yet, go). It answers the puzzling question facing everyone in China at Spring Festival time: Who gets a hong bao? (Or lai see, for our Cantonese friends)

Well, wonder no more. This brilliant chart should explain whether you have to hand over Renminbi-stuffed envelopes to colleagues and friends or whether you get to collect.

Click to make it larger. (To close it again, just click anywhere on the black space)



Toddler drowns in bucket in Shenzhen while mother busy playing Majiang

Posted: 02/18/2013 7:00 am

The child’s mother was too upset to talk to media, image courtesy of JZ News.

A 2 year-old girl drowned in a bucket of water in Shenzhen’s Longhua New Zone February 12 while her mother was playing Majiang, according to JZ News.

The child, Xiao Qiongfen, had been left to play in her neighbour’s apartment while her mother played the game and her father, Mr. Dai, was out performing a paper burning ritual.

When she was found at about 4 p.m., emergency services were called, but she was already dead by the time they reached the home in Yuanfen New Village.

Xiao Qiongfen

The bucket, which had been left under a faucet, contained 70-80 centimeters of water, Southern Metropolis Daily reports.

In China, laws against leaving a child unattended are not what they could be. Last month, three unattended toddlers fell from buildings in Shenzhen. Two died and the other sustained severe brain and lung injuries while his father was playing Majiang, Shenzhen Daily reported.


Chunjie kuai le from The Nanfang

Posted: 02/9/2013 4:17 pm

Photo courtesy Top China Travel

It’s party time in the PRD and across China as the Chinese Lunar New Year is rung in.  Unfortunately, as we already noted, there won’t be nearly as many large-scale fireworks shows in the PRD this year.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun; there is no doubt plenty going on over the next 7 days.

Many of you have time off work for the Chunjie holiday, and we will too. Posting will be sporadic at best until we all return to work following the break.

So here’s to you and yours for a fantastic Year of the Snake.


Ushering in the New Year with a bang? Won’t be happening in the PRD

Posted: 02/9/2013 7:00 am

Fireworks are a staple of ushering in the Chinese New Year but a last-minute ban cancellation has let all the air out of the balloon.  That’s right, there are no big fireworks celebrations north of Hong Kong in the PRD.

It’s as if Santa has cancelled Christmas – but it does offer light relief to the many weeks of smog filled air.

HERE! Dongguan reported this:

In February’s issue, the Editor’s Picks has a list of places to see fireworks for the Chinese New Year celebration. Those have all been cancelled at the last minute.

Following the lead of Guangzhou, who cancelled the shows citing pollution and budget concerns. Dongguan’s Propaganda Department had this to say: “There are better ways to celebrate the new year.”

The move to ban fireworks was first initiated by Guangzhou three months ago, citing concerns over air pollution and wanting to encourage a “low-carbon and environmentally-friendly lifestyle.” The rest of the PRD cities have followed Guangzhou’s lead.

Neighbouring Shenzhen has taken this one step further still. Police are taking a hard line over people who transport, sell or set off fireworks illegally. Those caught will be detained for up to 15 days and fined RMB2,000 for their troubles. Criminal charges will be slapped on anyone causing fires, explosions or injuries.

Want to know what you’ll be missing? This is a snapshot of the 30-minute-long fireworks on the Pearl River in Guangzhou from last year.  It’s all we’ve got to ring in the Year of the Snake.

If you really want to catch a fireworks display, they’ll light up Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on Monday at 8pm.


YouTube: Sammie Kong


Foshan pair busted for finding ingenious way to help people get home for CNY are released

Posted: 01/24/2013 11:00 am

The couple would collect the migrant workers’ I.D. cards to book the tickets in their name as many did not have time to join the lengthy queues.

A Foshan couple have been released after controversially being arrested for ‘scalping’ train tickets last week, Shenzhen Daily reports.

The couple in Foshan were arrested for selling the tickets without a license. Their business, which they started in November, involved collecting ID cards of migrant workers and then buying the tickets on their behalf. Some migrant workers don’t have access to online purchasing, so this was an easier way for them to secure a train ride home.

For their trouble, the couple charged 10 yuan per ticket. Most migrant workers who commented on the story said they thought this was reasonable.

Although police called it the biggest case of scalping so far this year and said the couple, Mr. Zhong and Mrs. Ye, would likely be in jail for up to three years, the couple received much sympathy for figuring out a creative way of helping the workers get home for the Spring Festival.

Now, 10 days after being detained, the couple have been released, and police have yet to explain why. They were initially expected to spend the holiday in police custody.

The couple’s lawyer, Liu Xiujiao, wrote on Sina Weibo thanking everybody for their concern, but also did not give an explanation for why they were released.

A picture of a woman urinating while in the queue for train tickets instead of going to the bathroom and losing her place.

China’s annual Spring Festival travel rush, known as chunyun, is the largest human migration in the world, and even with the new high-speed rail line and additional flights, China simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to cope with the demand for tickets.

To get an idea of how determined people are to get to the front of the queue for the tickets, consider the image that went viral on Sina Weibo in recent days of an attractive young woman squatting down and urinating on the street to avoid going to the toilet and losing her place in the queue.


At 40,000 RMB a week, Spring Festival is looking more like Spring Disaster

Posted: 02/1/2012 12:38 pm

Monday was chuba, the eighth day of the new year. For most of us, it was the day to get back to work after a short but joyous Chunjie, and also the day to start collecting red packets from employers.

Reunions with family and loved ones aside, as Southern Metropolis Daily (SMD) reported this week, the lunar new year is increasingly a holiday of heavy cash flow and difficult to enjoy without handing out at least 10,000 RMB—or more, depending on one’s position in the family hierarchy. Younger PRDers, meanwhile, complain that between visits to friends and relatives, dinner parties and other outings and, for the married among us, the handing out of red packets, year-end bonuses now tend to be gone almost as soon as they arrive.

In telling this story, SMD profiled 30-year-old Wang, a media professional in Guangzhou who spent more than 40,000 RMB this Chunjie. The standard fare for a red packet, she says, has gone from 300 RMB up now to 500 RMB. People also have higher expectations for gifts. Keen to ‘save face’ as much as they can without going bankrupt, people now tend to guess the costs of incoming gifts and send more expensive gifts in return. According to Wang, all this back-and-forth has grown far too complicated: “To be honest,” she says, “I don’t really want to go home for Chunjie.”

A new kind of Chunjie—春劫, meaning “spring disaster”—is a term now used quite frequently online to describe people’s experiences around this time of year. Experts say this new “Chunjie” phenomenon represents a shift in the value people now place on traditional culture.

“Not only during Spring Festival,” writes Hu Qiuye, a well-known cultural studies scholar. “We can see one-upmanship in many other ways and customs; values have been twisted such that the first standard to measure a person’s success now depends on the amount of money in his pocket.”

As for Wang, here’s where her 40,000 RMB went this year:

Round-trip tickets for her and her boyfriend: 4,500 RMB
Gifts: 11,000 RMB
Restaurant bills: 2,000 RMB
Lucky money (red packets): 4,000 RMB
Cash for Mother: 20,000 RMB


Nanfang TV: Guangzhou lit up to ring in the Year of the Dragon

Posted: 01/26/2012 11:40 am

Guangzhou is known to put on a spectacular fireworks show each year to ring in the new year, but it topped itself on Monday night.

It’s estimated that 288,000 fireworks were set off on the first day of the Year of the Dragon, easily beating last year’s total of 180,000 explosives.  As usual, the Pearl River provided a spectacular backdrop to the show.

You can watch news coverage and highlights of the fireworks performance below.

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