News / Asia

2010 Christmas Underscores Economic Contrasts

At this time of the year, the streets of Beijing take on a uniquely western look, complete with bright lights, Christmas trees and even Santa Claus
At this time of the year, the streets of Beijing take on a uniquely western look, complete with bright lights, Christmas trees and even Santa Claus

The Christmas Holiday - a long tradition in the West, is quickly gaining a foothold in many countries. Even in countries with few Christians, the holiday which symbolizes the birth of Jesus, is finding a home among people of different cultures. But the holiday also gives insight into the tough economic times we live in.

Less than two percent of China's 1.3 billion people are Christians. But at this time of the year, the streets of Beijing take on a uniquely western look, complete with bright lights, Christmas trees and even Santa Claus.

For many Chinese, it's become a day to shop. And for others - another reason to spend time with loved ones.

One woman explains, "We get together with friends and family to celebrate Christmas, the same as we celebrate the Chinese New Year. The New year is a traditional festival for all the Chinese, but Christmas has become an important holiday for the young people."

 

And it's a holiday encouraged by the Chinese government - part of Beijing's plan to increase domestic consumption.

For shop owners like Chen Zhenfen, it's a welcome gift from the West. "Business during Christmas is much better than the Chinese New Year because celebrating Christmas is becoming a popular trend in China, he said. "As China is getting westernized, Christmas offerings in clubs and restaurants have become very important to customers."

But halfway around the world - in Greece, where the birth of Jesus has been celebrated for hundreds of years, this year's holiday is more subdued.

Tough austerity measures imposed by the Greek government have many consumers in the debt-choked nation - reluctant to spend.

"People are tight-fisted now," a shopper said. "Even if they want to spend, they are hesitant about doing so because they don't know what will happen tomorrow."

Others say they are trying to stay optimistic even if it means fewer presents for their loved ones.

Another shopper states, "It's difficult. But I don't like this misery either, so we are trying to spend a little bit here, a little bit there, in order to provide for everyone in the family."

On the busiest shopping street in Athens, shopkeepers say business is down 50 to 60 percent. This man says even window shoppers are hard to find.

It's a vastly different story in China, where consumers appear more eager to open their wallets for a little Christmas cheer.

"I just bought some decorations and small Christmas trees because I already have some big ones, mainly for creating a kind of Christmas atmosphere and decking the residence compound. I spent roughly one thousand yuan (about $152 US), says one shopper.

Despite the stark economic differences between these countries, it's clear that Christmas traditions are here to stay. That in hard times and in good, the warmth of lights, the merriment of song and the spirit of giving is universal - and one that transcends international and economic borders.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs