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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in China Series at ChineseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Chinese holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 21. Christmas Day. In Chinese, it’s called 圣诞节 (shèngdàn jié).
December 25 is Christmas, a traditional Western festival with religious origins. In recent years, Christmas has become a popularly celebrated holiday in China, too. In this lesson, we’ll go over the differences between Western and Chinese Christmas customs.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
The Chinese have incorporated many customs of their own into Christmas celebrations, such as the “Christmas Fruit.” Do you know what this is?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Though Christmas is not an official public holiday in Mainland China, the Chinese have increasingly embraced the celebration of this holiday since the economic reform and opening-up policy, or 改革开放 (gǎigé kāifàng). It is, however, a public holiday in Macau, which took influence from the Portuguese. Similarly, Hong Kong also observes a three-day holiday for Christmas, spanning from December 24 to December 26.
Christmas celebrations in China have distinctly Chinese characteristics. Some of these customs are fascinating, while others may be confusing. In the West, Christmas is a time for family reunions, while in China, people more often go out in groups and see a movie, go to karaoke, or go shopping as a way to celebrate Christmas.
China’s economy is always at its best during Christmas time, as Christmas provides plenty of business opportunities, or 商机 (shāngjī), and big profits. Christmas Eve is the country’s biggest day for shopping and sales. Shops and restaurants all play along with the Christmas theme, adding to the Christmassy atmosphere. Many movies are shown at Christmas time, as the holiday is also seen as a day for romance.
In China, Santa Claus, or 圣诞老人 (Shèngdànlǎorén) is depicted differently than in the West. Most notably, the Chinese interpretation of Santa plays the saxophone, or sometimes alternatively the French horn, violin, or trumpet. This aspect of Santa’s image most likely started as a commercial campaign, but over time developed into a key aspect of his persona.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
The Chinese have incorporated many customs of their own into Christmas celebrations, such as the “Christmas Fruit.” Do you know what this is?
The “Christmas Fruit” or 圣诞果 (Shèngdàn guǒ) is an apple, which is the most common Christmas gift in China. The apple was appointed as the Christmas fruit because in Chinese, the word for apple is a homophone of “Christmas Eve”. Christmas Eve is 圣诞夜 (Shèngdànyè), while “apple” is 圣诞果 (Shèngdàn guǒ). With the help of special packaging, common apples are turned into expensive gifts.
What did you think of this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
How do you celebrate Christmas in your country? Please leave a comment telling us at ChineseClass101.com, and I'll see you in our next lesson. Bye!

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