The petition, published online and signed by 10 PhD students from top universities in China, triggered intense Internet discussion and polling, in which tens of thousands of people urged a boycott of Christmas festivities.
Later on in the article, it says that most Chinese people don’t know what the true meaning of Christmas is, and that more attention should be paid to traditional Chinese holidays.
Before you think that this is some kind of nationalist screed, please read the original (in Chinese)*. It does say, as the Shanghai Daily suggests, that people should not celebrate Christmas, but they don’t mean everyone—Chinese Christians are allowed to, and they believe in and respect people’s rights to their beliefs. Their objection is more targeted towards the vulgarized and commercialized Christmas that seems to have overtaken the shopping malls and even the elementary schools, where everyone seems to get festive and kids seem to get into the act without really knowing what the heck is going on.
The deeper point they want to make is that this is not just nefarious cultural imperialism on the part of the West (or at least the capitalists in the West) but also linked to a cultural inferiority complex the Chinese have vis-a-vis the West. Chinese festivals seem a bit a tired and conventional and going to church, attending mass, partying, shopping and exchanging gifts seems to offer more of the novelty and excitement that many young Chinese people desire.
At the same time, the authors express their wish that there might be some way of revitalizing traditional Chinese holidays without simply aping Christmas. One blogger noted that holidays are getting lumped together now in terms of timing—National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas with Western New Year, Chinese New Year and, of course, Valentine’s Day**. This blogger (not one of the 10 authors/signatories) seems to believe that doing so would further dilute the meaning and significance of Chinese New Year even more.
And that, in the end, is the issue—there seems to be a sentiment among in the Chinese blogosphere that Chinese New Year just ain’t what it used to be. Now Shanghaiist has no idea how one would answer that question—for one thing, it’s a difficult thing to measure or quantify, and relies a lot on subjective perceptions of things. What do the readers think, especially those who celebrated Chinese New Year often enough to observe changes in how its perceived and celebrated? It would be interesting, we think, to also compare the Christmas experience in the PRC with that in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
*Are there are any full translations of this into English or another language? We don’t think so, yet. Please leave a comment if you’ve found one/do one yourself.
**Speaking of Valentine’s Day, please remember to buy some flowers, because we need to break the 600 million flower per year (or 20 flowers per second) figure we set in 2006. Has anyone done that math? Does 600 million flowers in 365 days come out to 20 per second?
Photo from panorama.beta.amber.