When I walked into work on Tuesday, December 22, 2009, I was surprised to find that the school’s front lobby had been decked out for Christmas. The student leadership team had worked its magic. The central element was the Christmas tree, which had been transformed from a real disaster (at left) to real decoration (at right).
A couple of things caught my attention with this display. First was the fact that there were overtly Christmas decorations in a school setting. There was no use of the general term “holiday” or any deliberate mention of other festivals. This was obviously in contrast to the way schools can celebrate holidays in the United States.
Secondly, while most of the decorations fit together perfectly, one did not seem quite right. All of the frosted stencils on the walls were wishing passersby a “Merry Christmas 2010” not 2009. What was the deal?
Thinking it was just a simple student mistake, I laughed it off. Then, on my way home, I noticed the same stencil in other store fronts, each reading 2010. I asked Tian about it, and she told me that the Chinese tend to celebrate Christmas as a part of New Years. Both of the holidays hold more importance in the west (Chinese New Year in February is a much bigger deal than January 1), and they also both take place within a week of each other. This means Christmas and New Yars are usually packaged together publicly as one in the same. Thus the signs saying “Merry Christmas 2010. “