Christmas is oh so romantic. At least, that’s what my Chinese husband thinks of the holiday — and I know he’s not alone.
I’ll never forget one Christmas Eve when I stepped out onto Huaihai Road, Shanghai’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue, and right into a sea of twentysomething and thirtysomething couples, strolling hand-in-hand under strings of soft white led Christmas lights up and down the street. There were so many young people in love all around me, I almost felt like I walked onto a set-in-China romantic holiday movie.
It’s not as if Christmas isn’t romantic in the US, where I grew up. After all, Christmas remains the most popular time for wedding proposals, and often a season when many will surprise their loved ones with “a little sparkle” of jewelry under the tree. Plus, there’s at least one romantic holiday movie every year that squeezes in among all of the Santa Claus and elves at the movies (and often far more made-for-TV romantic movies — yes, Lifetime, I’m thinking of you).
But perhaps all that Christmas romance gets lost behind the Santa Claus and the Christmas story and Christmas Eve at your grandma’s and all of your other holiday and family traditions. I don’t know about you, but in my mind, I still think of family when I think of Christmas, and no amount of romantic movies and “buy your engagement ring” commercials could ever change that.
In China, the story changes. Christmas loses much of the holiday baggage and traditions we know because, well, it’s not traditionally in Chinese culture. At the same time, more young people tend to celebrate, instead of the cross-generational celebrations I remembered growing up. Maybe it’s just inevitable that, when you strip away the traditional meanings of the holiday and populate it with young people, romance is what you get.
In fact, all of the romance left me with a question — is this Christmas or another Valentine’s Day?
It’s hard not to compare when you see ads for Western-style dinners, dances and wine parties, each promising that “once-in-a-lifetime” evening of magic by candlelight at a table for two. Meanwhile, singletons in China now face the same Valentine’s Day depression we know all too well. One Chinese ad for a speed-dating type Christmas event in Jilin starts out by saying, “Christmas 2011 is coming and you’re still single?” while another article in Chinese asks the reader, “…who has ever thought of what Christmas is like for bachelors?” and then proceeds to introduce a song titled “Xmas? I don’t know such a thing!” (Maybe we shouldn’t remind these singles that Valentine’s Day will come in less than two months.)
Then again, I have to admit I’m feeling a little more romantic about Christmas this year. After all, I have my husband all to myself this Christmas Eve. I have visions of that night dancing through my head — and they have nothing to do with sugar plums. 😉
Do you think Christmas is a romantic holiday?