China Sees New Surge in Christmas Tradition

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BEIJING -- It's been a hectic few weeks for Wang San Ping.

Ping owns a small Christmas shop near the U.S. embassy in Beijing. She, like so many other merchants on this street, is trying to entice shoppers to spend this Christmas season.

The last couple of years, Christmas in China has been a huge money-making business, but this year, many are not feeling too merry about the season.

This is traditionally one of the busiest times in China's economic calendar, as factories rush to export billions of dollars worth of goods made in China, most of which will end up under Christmas trees around the world.

But the global economic crisis has hit us in China and foreigners are not spending like they used to.

Still, it hasn't stopped the Chinese from getting into the holiday spirit.

"Many people around the world are celebrating this holiday and we are more than happy to join in the festivities," one resident said.

From hotels to restaurants, homes to shopping malls, the traditionally western holiday is increasingly becoming a yearly tradition with its own Chinese flavor.

"It is part of China's embrace of all things Western," one couple explained. "Christmas is just one more thing to add to the list."

Typically, the Chinese will celebrate by decorating their houses with Christmas trees, cooking and eating special foods and spending time with family and friends.

"I'm planning to have a couple of friends over for dinner. We'll exchange gifts and sing songs. It will be a good time," one Chinese woman shared.

For many who celebrate Christmas in China, the holiday has little to do with the birth of Christ. In fact, many CBN News spoke to on the streets of Beijing aren't aware of the meaning of Christmas.

"Do you know why people in the west celebrate Christmas?" CBN News asked.

One woman responded, laughing, "I don't know."

Christmas store owner Ping was asked the same question.

"Not really," she responded. "I've heard that it has something to do with a person called Jesus, but I'm not too sure."

While most Chinese are interested in the secular and economic aspects of Christmas, many have in recent years flocked to government-sanctioned churches and so-called underground house churches to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Twenty years ago, few people in China even knew what Christmas was. Today, across China's big cities, and even in some parts of the countryside, more and more people are happily embracing this Western tradition. And some are coming to understand its true meaning as well.

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