Overseas Education College of Xiamen University

How expats celebrate Christmas in Fujian?

How expats celebrate Christmas in Fujian?

Source: chinadaily.com.cn
Updated: 2014-11-28 17:06


A growing number of expatriates are working, studying and living in Fujian, lured by its excellent ecological environment and the increased business opportunities in recent years.

By 2014, there were some 40,000 expatriates estimated to be in the province.

With Christmas – one of the most important holidays in the West – around the corner, China Daily Fujian Bureau took a survey on how they were going to spend the big day.

"Family reunions and tasting food are the most important things in Denmark when celebrating Christmas,” said Jan Kjaerlund, who has been doing business in Xiamen for a year. 

Jan Kjaerlund from Denmark. [Photo/China Daily]

"Every year our family gets together for a big dinner. And during dinner there are some traditions, like finding the almond in a big bowl with mashed rice and almonds (Ris à L'Amande). But you leave one whole almond for somebody to find,” he said, adding that the one who finds the whole almond gets a present.

"For me, the food may vary when celebrating Christmas in different places, but the spirit of the festival is always there – that’s family reunion,”said Kjaerlund.

"For most Americans, Christmas carries over a traditional family gathering atmosphere year after year and is reminiscent of their sweet memories of childhood,” said Damien Valli, an overseas student who studies Chinese in Fujian Normal University. 

Damien Valli from the United States. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

In some senses, Christmas in Western countries is like the Spring Festival or the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, he said, “when families gather to enjoy delicious food and also give gifts to each other.

"On Christmas Eve, we usually put presents underneath the Christmas tree. But little kids do believe that Santa brought the presents, and usually they are too excited to fall asleep because they can't wait to open the presents. I learned that Santa wasn’t real in my second grade,” Damien laughed, adding that the innocuous little white lie provoked strong surges of nostalgia for the days of yore.

"Living in Fuzhou now, I’ll celebrate the Christmas with my friends, This year we’ll probably throw a big party. It’s not a Western-style Christmas nor a Chinese-style Christmas, but a Christmas of our own style. After all, happiness is the most important thing,” Damien said.

"We’ll prepare food with different flavors. My Chinese friends make Chinese food and I’ll cook western food for them, such as different pies, as well as turkey, if only I can find one in Fuzhou’s supermarket,” Damien laughed.

Unlike some who remain enthusiastic about Christmas from the past in their hometown, Liz Witcher, from Michigan State in the US, is more excited about celebrating Christmas in China. 

Liz from the US celebrates Christmas with her friends. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

“Christmas is all about family reunion in the US, while celebrating it here, I can spend more time with my friends, especially my Chinese friends. It will be a whole new experience for me,” said Liz.

Liz came to Fuzhou this August and is now working as an English teacher in the Affiliated High School of Fujian Normal University. She is always keen on Chinese language and the mysterious culture of China.

This year, she has made up her mind to arrange a gathering with her friends, most of whom are Chinese, in Fuzhou, “Sometimes it is really hard for foreigners to break the ice and make local friends. So lots of foreigners prefer to stay with their fellow countrymen, but I do enjoy making real connections with the local people.

"I am sure we will eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve. I love dumplings and I tried several times to make them,” Liz said with a blink in her blue eyes.

"In my country, we’ll have a big dinner with all family members on Christmas Eve, then we go to Church for silent night Mass. But here in Xiamen, instead of going to Church we will probably go to a bar with families and friends,” said Wenny Barucco from Indonesia.

Barucco, who has run a dancing studio in Xiamen for almost 10 years, and has witnessed the impact of cultural exchange in recent years. 

Wenny Barucco from Indonesian. [Photo/China Daily]

As a member of La Luna, an organization which provides opportunities for expatriates to dive into the local social network as well as help the Chinese young generation know about the culture of the outside world, Barucco regards it as an appropriate trend for more and more Chinese choose to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas is fast gaining popularity in China. Though many Chinese still regard it as a foreign flight of fancy, its commercial trappings are inexorably gaining traction among the young generations.

According to Li Qihui, dean of the Confucius Institute of Al Azhar University in Indonesia and deputy Party secretary of the Fujian Normal University, China is experiencing a rapid economic growth over the years and the young generations nowadays are more exposed to a diverse cultural environment.

Li further explained that the celebration of Christmas in China is a new trend for cultural integration and also a recognition of foreign culture. “For many expatriates, they may add some ‘Chinese elements’ when celebrating Christmas in China. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’.

"With 5000 years of history, China possesses a rich and profound culture. I believe that one day our own festivals will go international, and be celebrated by people all around the world,” Li said.

By Lu Ting and Liu Xiaoyu from China Daily Fujian Bureau.




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