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    Posted December 24, 2012 by
    Chongqing, China
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Life in China

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    Christmas in Chongqing I


    I have spent many Christmases in Nagoya Japan and Shanghai, but this is my first one in Chongqing.

    Christmas in Japan is predictably…”different.” Of course, Jesus is nowhere to be found, but the secular aspects are quite popular—with Japanese twists added. Public Christmas light displays—called “illuminations”—are a big feature, as are Christmas cards and decorations. Japanese Christmas cards can be extremely elaborate with light-up Hello Kitty’s and music. But everything is rendered much “cuter.” This is because the Japanese word for “cute,“かわいい (kawaii), has a connotation approaching deification. Anything kawaii is revered and adored.

    Perhaps this is part of the reason for another element of Christmas in Japan: it is a romantic, rather than a family, holiday. The most omnipresent Christmas song is George Michaels “Last Christmas.” All of the girls want a boyfriend for Christmas Eve. So the month before Christmas is a really good time for a guy to make himself available in the bars and clubs, because it’s the most likely time the girls are “shopping.”

    Christmas in China is also a religion-free zone. The hotels and shopping areas are heavily decorated and the already Las-Vegas-like lighting is supplemented with massive amounts of holiday lights. Some of these will stay up a long time, because the main aspect of Christmas in China is that it is a sort of warm-up for the Spring Festival, which is the much bigger event.

    Winter becomes a kind of unending series of holidays. Christmas feeds into Western New Year, which is more of a big deal in the Eastern Coastal Cities because they have more expats and have been Westernized for longer. But it still gets some play in big inland cities like Chongqing. Then shortly thereafter, what is commonly called “Chinese New Year” in the West hits. It is actually the eye of the hurricane of what may be the world’s biggest celebration, The Spring Festival, that lasts for fifteen days until the Lantern Festival.

    Since bright lights ward off demons, bring good luck, and generally make everybody happy, the lighting traditions of the successive holidays all work together very well.

    Chongqing has a history of being a brightly illuminated city at night. (Oddly enough, nicknamed “Little Hong Kong” even though it is many times larger than HK). There are several reasons for this. The first is that the city has possible the worst daytime weather I have ever experienced in any city I have lived in. CQ is called (among other things) “Fog City” because it is often shrouded in mist. Also, the cloud cover is pretty omnipresent, rendering most days quite dark and gloomy. The occasional sunny day comes as a bit of a shock.

    The second is related to the first. Chongqing has long been an important commercial center because of its location at the junction of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers. The banks are quite steep and there are rocky places. A brightly lit city is a welcome sight to a riverboat sailing along a very dark river.

    Being from Los Angeles, the dark days of CQ are hard to take. The night spectacular is welcome. And everyone walks around Jie Feng Bei, the central district where I live, with a smile on their face at night. I hope that smile spreads around the world.

    CQ has its own "different" celebration on Christmas Eve. I felt that warranted a second i-report. It will follow.

    Merry Christmas everyone!
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