300 Santas in Guangzhou, China

While the beginning of December is a joyous time when we look forward to a sea or bush holiday and Christmas lists drawn up by the little ones, this time of year also holds deep longing and nostalgia. At Christmas time, we always think of the children and grandchildren or the brothers and sisters celebrating Christmas on the other side of the world on their own. This week, we asked Francois Bodenstein how they celebrate Christmas in Guangzhou, China.

Are there any interesting Christmas customs and traditions in China?

Every year, about two weeks before Christmas Day, about 300 of us expats dress up as Santas, and then we get on buses and stop at different bars and restaurants in our city. It is quite an experience.

Do you still enjoy a traditional South African feast, or do you try new dishes?

Yes, we still enjoy a traditional South African feast. We usually are a couple of families who each bring their favourite dish to the Christmas event, and if someone from another country joins us, they bring a dish from their country, too. Once a Russian made us glühwein. Now, that is something we wouldn’t normally drink in South Africa.

You live in a country with very few Christians. What plans do you make to celebrate the day?

Yes, we are teachers in China, and they don’t celebrate Christmas here at all. Only some international schools give their teachers the day off to celebrate Christmas. The South Africans who do not work at international schools must take a day’s leave to celebrate Christmas.

Although China does not celebrate Christmas, they still use Christmas trees and Santas for marketing their businesses and products. China manufactures most of the Christmas decorations in the world.

Do you stick to the old, traditional celebrations or do you celebrate Christmas in new ways?

We celebrate it in traditional ways, except that we don’t celebrate it with family but with our South African “family” in Guangzhou. We get together, someone reads us from the Bible and prays, and then we enjoy traditional South African dishes together. Afterwards, we open presents and enjoy the day together.

ALSO READ: Christmas in Shanghai

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