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Christmas in Hong Kong
I recently returned from Hong Kong where I spent Christmas.
Since my wife is a Hong Kong citizen, she wanted me to get to see her hometown and meet her family.
I was excited to go, but thought I would be skipping Christmas in a way, since I assumed the holiday spirit would not be very big in the Far East.
Having grown up in Europe, I have spent Christmas in several different countries and have seen many different Christmas traditions, such as Germany’s Saint Nicholas Day on Dec. 6, where children leave a boot out to be filled with nuts, fruits and berries.
I was not expecting big celebrations in Hong Kong of any kind, but I was shocked to see the Hong Kong residents celebrate Christmas with a passion equal to or greater than anything I have seen in the United States.
One hundred-story buildings were decorated from top to bottom with Christmas lights, 30-foot Christmas trees were erected across the city and in malls, and you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Christmas music playing.
However, after getting used to how similar Christmas is there, it was interesting to take a closer look and see how differently Hong Kong people celebrate the holiday.
The city puts on a huge display and the people are certainly excited, but to many of them Christmas isn’t any more significant than other holidays.
“It’s just a celebration, nothing special. It’s like a birthday. I don’t think Hong Kong people take Christmas as seriously as Europe or America,” said 25-year-old Hong Kong resident Annie Lok.
In America, Christmas shopping is a big part of the season. In Hong Kong it’s big as well, but instead of shopping for presents, people usually just take advantage of the sales for themselves.
In fact, it is uncommon to give more than one present to someone, and since it is a former British colony, Hong Kong residents usually open their presents on Packing Day, Dec. 26.
In America much more of the holiday is based around gifts, and while it is still an important part of Christmas in Hong Kong, it is not the focus.
“Christmas is really just an excuse to do a lot of shopping and enjoy yourself. If it wasn’t Christmas, it would just be another holiday,” Hong Kong resident Rachel Leung said.
Leung, like many other Hong Kong citizens, sees it much more as a cultural holiday than a religious one. In fact, many Americans would probably not even call it a holiday if they were in the same situation, since most businesses remain open throughout Christmas.
However, seeing carolers in the streets or a candlelight vigil walk through the city on Christmas Eve is common. You can see a strong Western influence around Christmas, especially since many Hong Kong residents such as Lok would describe an ideal Christmas as “sitting by a fireplace with your family while it snows outside,” a scene very unlikely to occur in Hong Kong’s subtropical weather.
The weather, like most places around the world during winter, does get colder, but not by a very significant amount. The weather, like the people, remain mostly constant through the season, despite the fantastic show the city puts on.
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