Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

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Ni Hao (Hello),

A Jewish girl celebrating Christmas in China…sounds like a start of a bad joke, right? Well, you’re not far from the truth.

Today I would like to tell you about Christmas in a country that celebrates it from the outside but not really from the inside.

So please let me explain.  Just like in Israel, Chinese people do not truly celebrate this holiday, as only 3%-4% of all the population in China are Christians. But unlike in Israel, where you don’t see any signs of Christmas, in China it seems from the outside that it’s been celebrated like crazy. Everywhere you go there are extravagant decorations, huge trees with colorful lights on it, Chinese Santa pop out from nowhere, fake big gifts, Christmas sales and repeated 24/7 Christmas songs.

When I asked my Chinese colleagues how they celebrate Christmas they said they don’t.  So my next logical question was:  then why you make such a big fuzz over Christmas? Much to my surprise, they didn’t really know what to answer. I think they just like to have the celebration atmosphere as a good excuse for nice new decorations and shopping, but you won’t see any Christmas tree or gifts in anyone’s home. And if you’ll ask a farmer from the villages about Christmas, most chances are he won’t even know what it is. So one can safely say that in China, the Christmas is not in the hearts but in the streets! And if that was the reality I was facing, why not make my own holiday? So on year in China I have decided to invite all my international colleagues to my house for a Chrismekkah (Christmas and Hanukkah) gathering! I bought my first Christmas tree with nice decoration, but also baked the traditional Hanukkah donuts (Sufganiyot). When everybody arrived we had some drinks, ate the donuts and didn’t really mention anything about the holidays. The next week I looked at the nice tree and decided to throw it away; as a Jewish girl it felt really weird having a Christmas tree at my house.

Christmas is not in the hearts but in the streets!

Christmas is not in the hearts but in the streets!

This year Christmas and Hanukkah got separate as Hanukkah was celebrated closer to Thanks Giving. So, for the first time I could concentrated on Christmas only.

I started by asking all my friends in Beijing many questions… Some say it’s the celebration for baby Jesus that comes and brings presents, others say there is a an old man called Santa Claus from the North Pole that comes into your home through a chimney, while few even believe that Santa Claus is just a fictional image that was created by coca cola branding team! But the best part is to hear from different people how they celebrate Christmas with families, performing their own special traditions and ceremonies.

After talking with all my friends from all kind of nationalities my conclusion is that Christmas is a bit magical! Whenever somebody mentions it, I could clearly see a spark in their eyes and the inner child comes out once again. It’s such a pity that only as a child we believe in magic and after growing up we become more cynical.

I love Jewish holidays too, and I won’t replace any of them for any other holiday, but I’m glad to have the chance of getting into the Christmas spirit from the outside but not necessarily from the inside. Because “When in Rome, Do as the Romans do” and in China I can do as the Chinese do!

Merry Christmas! חג מולד שמח!



Meirav Markowitz

Meirav 梅花 Shacked - The Israeli girl beyond the Great FireWall (of China). Currently living and working in Beijing, China for the last 3 years, Meirav is involve in the local Chinese online & social media scenes as well as the conventional global platforms. Meirav loves a good 'night out' at a chic KTV (karaoke) club as well as getting lost in Beijing old town alleys (Hutongs) while posting her adventures on Instagram (@meimarko). She might just be the only blonde who commutes daily in the Beijing subway, along with 12 million other Chinese passengers.

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