In a culture where the ‘big guy in red’ doesn’t rank so highly on the list of legendary figures, it’d be remiss of me not to point out that Hong Kong is well and truly lit-up like a proverbial Christmas tree on steroids.
I’m not just talking about a bit of scruffy tinsel wrapped half-heartedly around a street light or a few baubles dangling precariously inside a shopping centre, no no, this my friends is seriously decking the halls!
Still a relative youngster in traditional Christmas terms, ’tis the season to be jolly’ is something locals have really only embraced (with all their glitter-loving glory) in the last few decades.
Given just ten per cent of Hong Kong’s population is Christian, it’s easy to see why Christmas hasn’t long been on the festive radar.
Even now, Christmas Day itself isn’t the big cheese, Winter Solstice Day in late December attracts far more attention. Chinese believe the philosophy of Yin and Yang is at its most powerful on this, the shortest day of the year.
Locals rather unusually escape the grind early, heading home for a lavish meal with family which includes Tangyuan (a sweet soup with balls of sticky rice) meaning ‘happy reunion’ in chinese.
The dish is deeply symbolic and signals the beginning of a long and celebratory season ahead…all leading to the ‘Big Kahuna’ – Chinese New Year! (Definitely a story for another day.)
Nonetheless, there’s no denying there’s a little bit of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer carving out his spot on the old chinese holiday calendar….dancing dragon beware.
Christmas is a public holiday in the loosest of terms – shops, restaurants and government departments are all open and it’s, well, manic to say the least.
Things don’t slow down to a leisurely ‘gone fishing’ pace, if anything they speed up. (You wouldn’t really expect anything less in this city with its pulse in permanent overdrive would you?)
Don’t expect to see locals marking Christmas Day as a momentous occasion to catch up with loved ones and exchange presents.
This isn’t to say children aren’t benefitting from this new-found interest in the spirit of Christmas. It’s probably a safe bet that most stocking fillers are the ‘made in China’ kind, so I’m sure Santa won’t mind dropping a few off on his way through.
And while there are no typical ‘pre-Christmas sales’ as we know it, if the current frenzied state of the shops is anything to go by, I’m beginning to think the grown-ups are quite partial to a little bit of Christmas gift giving themselves!
You won’t find a Christmas spread of roast turkey with all the trimmings followed by Christmas pud on the Hong Kong family table (or if you’re from down under like me, a prawn on the barbie) but what the menu lacks in traditional Christmas cuisine is more than made up for in Christmas cheer!
For Honkies, it’s a holiday and that means it’s time to paint the town red. (No pun intended.)
While kissing under the mistletoe’s off the agenda (PDA’s or public displays of affection can be considered most disrespectful around these parts), crowds are crushed together by default, largely for that perfect ‘photo-op.’
At the risk of repeating myself, people here LOVE their happy snaps. Not just holiday snapshots by the pool or a few of junior in his christmas play, anything here is fair game (including myself and Ava, I might add).
So what’s not to love when you’ve got a ‘winter wonderland’ to say cheese in.
‘Sing Daan Lou Yan’ (cantonese for Santa Claus or ‘Christmas Old Man’ as it translates) might not get his cookies and milk but he’ll definitely receive a glowing reception.
The glitz all starts the minute you step out the front door. In my case, it’s one foot out of the lift and we’re transported into our very own christmas pageant – enough to make any little girl shout with ‘glee’ (of course I mean Ava).
Carols ring out, a giant floor to ceiling christmas tree stands tall, unicorns adorn the windows and a shimmering carousel creates all the charm of a village fairground.
A hop, skip and a lift ride into the shopping centre and this is where you sense the competition really heating up.
Ladies and Gentleman, this is not just about a christmas tree in the mall with a few fancy ornaments, there’s clearly some serious credibility at stake here.
There’s absolutely no holding back on the elaborate nature of their nativity scenes (read anything goes).
They are dazzling, intricate and large!
Let’s not forget Hong Kong’s sea of sky scrapers, which are in no way excluded when it comes to dolling-up for the yuletide party.
It’s electronic sparkle at its best!
So in keeping with Hong Kong’s modern and magnificently magical take on Christmas – I’m off to bask in the bling, while I shop, eat, drink, and be merry.
Merry Christmas everyone!