Shanghai: A Christmas Phog.
When I originally thought "Hey, I'll do a funny phog* about all the Christmas stuff in Shanghai!" I was anticipating doing some mocking. Quite a bit of mocking, truth be told. (You are all shocked, right?) (No, I didn't really think you would be, but you know me: any excuse for a parenthetical aside.) (Seriously.) (Ha-ha!) Anyway, I quickly ran into a problem because--besides one stray upside-down "Merry Christmas" stencil--there was, sadly, not much to mock in Shanghai. Unlike, for example, Beijing, where all kinds of weird stuff was going on, but since I didn't have my super-portable camera back then, pictures are mostly lacking, although I think the BCTE--Best Christmas Tree Ever--more than makes up for it, don't you?
But back to Shanghai. Like I said, most of the Christmas decorations there were really nice. I guess the Shanghainese just "get" Christmas more than people in Beijing, although I should note by "get" I don't mean that they have any idea who either Jesus or Santa Claus is (because really, they mostly don't): I mean that they know how to decorate, albeit with fake trees, which make sense since something like 70 percent of the fake Christmas trees in the world are made in China. (Along with approximately 70 percent of everything else, of course.) But I guess the decorating thing isn't surprising, because really, what's more important to Christmas than decorating? Oh, right--gifts. Duh. Some Chinese are actually now giving gifts for Christmas, even though most aren't. But don't worry, I'm sure more people will in the coming years since, as I've said before, anything that involves loads of free presents is going to catch on. Really, it just is.
(Side note: I've been thinking about the gifts the Three Wise Men brought to Jesus lately. More specifically, the gift inequity. I mean, think about it: one guy brought incense, one guy brought what basically amounts to spice, and the third brought GOLD. How does that work? Did Mary do a good job of acting gracious? "Oh, frankincense, how nice! I mean, it's not gold, but I have been meaning to replace the potpourri in our bathroom." And how did Joseph, he who couldn't manage to cough up enough cash to get a hotel room--sure it was full, but money talks--feel when some foreign guy with an exotic accent that you know the women just loved showed up ten minutes after "his" kid was born and gave his wife a bunch of gold? And finally, what about the wise men themselves? After they left the manger were the other two all like, "Dude, I thought we had a ten dollar limit! You made us look like jackasses!" I know, I know: lots of questions, not a lot of answers. In conclusion, that is the meaning of faith. Good night Cleveland, we love you!)
But, finally, back to Shanghai. Again. Like I said, not a lot of funny decorations, but still, a lot of decorations. And since I took pictures of all of them and don't have much else to post (since I'm currently in the US for Christmas), I thought I'd share them with you so that you could get a feeling for Christmas in China. The short version? All the presents, but no church! The long version, there's decorations, too! And really, that's it. Maybe I should have said the mid-range version? Probably.
Anyway, here are the pictures, starting with Plaza 66, one of the fanciest local malls. As you can see, they're actually pretty nice:
A nearby mall (in Shanghai, there's always a "nearby mall):
Outside Plaza 66 and the "nearby mall." The glowing icicles were actually much cooler (ding!) in person: the light started at the top, then dripped down toward the bottom until the entire thing was lit, as you see here:
A different mall--this one in our 'hood, Xujiahui:
Here's the nicest mall near our apartment. (The Grand Gateway, for anyone who cares.) It had snowflakes, Santas, and presents hanging from the ceiling all over the place. It was actually sort of cool looking. Here's the view from floor four (of seven, if you include the basement):
Out the back of the Grand Gateway, where there's a bunch of restaurants, a random statue of a sax player, and, currently, a Christmas tree:
(Someday I will have to do a post about the random statues in Shanghai. There's some bizarre ones, including one of a guy just standing around naked with three pigeons on his arm. The last time we drove by it, there were two little kids standing there tugging on the statue's bronze ding-a-ling. Really. Sadly, we were going by too fast to take a picture ...)
The display outside the Grand Gateway, which looked much nicer live and in-person than it does in this picture:
What are the odds? Another mall! Have I mentioned there's like six huge malls at the big intersection by our house? I guess I have now. Only one of them has a purple Christmas tree, however, as you can see:
Yes, another mall. (Printemps if you're playing along at home.) I like that there's an elf on a ladder scratching the dogs head. I think that's why the dog looks so happy:
A street by our house. Every time I walked by, I would think "Have yourself a merry little Christmas / Make the Yuletide gay ..." I wonder why?
Of course, not everyone had classy decorations. The decorated stairs--which say "Merry Xmas & Happy New Year"--were a bit of a misstep. (Ding!) Get it, "miss-step"? That's the kind of humor that keeps people coming back for more ...
Of course, the foreign companies were all done-up for Christmas. Which is weird, since in America, now apparently the land of the "Holiday Tree" (WTF? I leave the country for one year and everything goes to hell), lots of these places probably don't have Christmas decorations. Not so in Shanghai, obviously:
This is Pizza Hut, in case you can't tell:
KFC went so far as to have an actual Christmas tree in the store. And by "actual," I mean "plastic and pre-decorated," just so we're clear:
A window sticker outside (one of) our (five) local KFC(s). The Chinese is kuai le shen dan, which means "Happy Santa Day." Although, for the record, it's usually reversed when people say it: in Chinese, "Merry Christmas" is shen dan jie kuai le (pronounced something like shun dawn gee-a kwhy luh), but I guess KFC switched it around so it "translated" better:
Even local companies got into the act. Here's an ad for BreadTalk, one of the local bakery chains. If I had stayed in town, I would have totally gotten one of those little Santa cupcakes:
Here's the Christmas decorations at Beard Papa, a Japanese chain that sells nothing but creampuffs. Seriously. I guess there are some in the US--LA and Manhattan for sure--so maybe some of you have seen it. There's quite a few in Shanghai and Beijing. I love that Beard Papa himself appears to be a crusty old sailor. What that has to do with creampuffs I have no idea, but they still taste good:
Even the grocery store we go to got into the act. Very modern, isn't it? Except the place where you unload your groceries doesn't have a little conveyer belt, so you have to physically push your groceries toward the checker once you unload, which is just so very annoying. Yes, our life in China is filled with terrible difficulties just like that. How we cope I have no idea:
Yes, even the Playboy store is all dolled up for Christmas. If they had playmates inside, I'm guessing they might have a few more customers. Or even a customer, for that matter:
Hey, it's shen dan lao ren: Santa Old Man! He was actually mechanized, so while I was taking this picture he was dancing and singing "Jingle Bells." It was really funny for about five seconds, after which it just got increasingly annoying:
And there you have it: Christmas in Shanghai. So as Santa would say, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" Well, most Santas--the one pictured above would just sing "Jingle Bells" over and over and over while shaking his hips suggestively, which just isn't quite the same ...* photo blog