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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 II: Christmas Eve Bash

    Today is Christmas Day. Merry Christmas everyone. Last night I received one of my periodic surprises (shocks?) from living in Chongqing. Starting in the afternoon, there were especially large clumps of street vendors. This is would not be so odd on a holiday, except that they were selling Mardi Gras-style masks, aerosol cans, and inflatable toys---mostly giant hammers and studded clubs such as Bam Bam from the animated show The Flintstones might carry.

    I knew what this was for, but I didn’t realize this tradition had spread to Chongqing: Tonight would be the “Christmas Eve Bash.”

    This would probably qualify as the “World’s Oddest Christmas Tradition.” After dinnertime in the evening, thousands of people gather in public squares and on pedestrian malls and start hitting each other over the head with the inflatable toys. Merry Christmas.

    It started in Chengdu, about 90 minutes from here by train. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province and is smaller than Chongqing, but has more foreign corporations and is somewhat more sophisticated—in some ways. Chengdu people are known for being very relaxed and preferring to spend all day playing mahjong. I haven’t been able to get a clear answer on exactly how it started, but where it started is a big pedestrian shopping street called Chunxilu. It grew and got so violent that the police banned it. But it persisted on side streets and other less-prominent squares. In its toned-down form, it survived.

    And it has apparently spread to CQ because last night it raged. There was an army of police, from what I could see, more as a show-of-force deterrent than to break it up. There also was a new wrinkle added: people were spraying each other with spray snow from aerosol cans.

    In typical Chongqing fashion, it was enormous, loud and rowdy. A satellite photo would probably look like a full-scale war. Not wanting to get my camera sprayed, I did one pass through then retired from the field. I could hear the yelling in my 19th floor apartment as I drifted off to sleep.

    When I got up, the streets were spotlessly clean. At night, Chongqing has a vast battalion of street cleaners. Last night they must have had their hands full.

    To put this in perspective (and my comments about Christmas in Japan in my previous i-Report), it must be remembered that Christmas is becoming more and more popular in Asia in general. It has bright lights and a guy in a red suit (red is lucky) and everybody goes shopping and gets presents. Plus there is lots of eating and drinking. But there is no religion or tradition behind it, so traditions have to develop to fill the void.

    Volumes could be written speculating about why public “bashing” sprang up in Western China and became so popular. Safe rebellion? Venting of frustration? The fact that it is a Western holiday and therefore not rule-bound by the twin control pillars of Confucianism and the government might have allowed the collective ids of everyone to simply flow out.

    Whatever the reason, everybody seems to have a good time.

    If Santa Claus was flying overhead, he probably made a note to wear a crash helmet the next time he came.

    Merry Christmas everyone!
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