Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Sitting here listening to BBN. The choir is singing the old Moravian hymn, Angels From the Realms of Glory. Christmas in a country which does not come from a Christian tradition is quite a different experience. Actually, it's different in some ways, and very similar in others. The part that's different, is that in America, Christmas is a much bigger holiday, so there is an assumption that people will not be required to work on Christmas. When I was in the trucking industry, my company would actually fly drivers home for Christmas if it was not able to get them a load going back to Fargo. That never happened to me, but I did usually take at least a week off during that time.

During the years that I was a country school teacher, the whole school schedule was built around the Christmas holiday. This cultural structure, of course, facilitates the practice of Christmas for those who believe, while not imposing Christmas on those who don't, but are not likely to complain about having another break from work.

That part is different in China. There is no holiday for Christmas. As a foreigner, I am entitled to take Christmas off, but that can be an empty liberty, especially for a single person, if everyone else you know has to work. This is especially true for me, because the church community I am part of is a Chinese church. Most of the Christians I fellowship with are local.

But there is another part that is very similar. Christmas is a commercial time in China. Lots of shopping. I don't think it would quite compare with the US, because the concept of giving Christmas presents is not universal. I rather suspect that it is a little more like Japan, where Christmas is sort of a second Valentine's Day. Nevertheless, there is a pretty pervasive commercialization of Christmas here in China as in America. Stores put up Christmas lights, and there is a big Christmas tree at the coffee bar. Commercialism is commercialism. There is very little that is Christian about it, so it looks pretty much the same everywhere.

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