Sunday, December 26, 2010


     If you're considering a trip to China for the holidays, you'll find that some of their Christmas traditions are similar to ours, but many are very different.  You'll see decorated trees, beautiful lights, and many scenes similar to the ones you would see at Christmas in the United States, but in China, most of the decorations are intricate paper folding that form flowers, lanterns and chains on the tree.
   Yes, they have Santa in China, but they don't call him by the name Americans do, he's referred to as Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run), which means Christmas Old Man.  Another name for Santa is Lan Khoong.  Although most citizens of China are not of the Christian faith there are still plenty of celebrations.
   The festival where everyone celebrates the most, occurs at the end of January, call the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year.  This is the time when children receive gifts of toys and clothing, every one feasts and, unlike in America, there are huge fireworks shows around the country.

Chrildren putting wishes on wall

     Whereas Americans are busy with worship, wrapping gifts, singing carols and awaiting Santa's arrival, most Chinese are remembering their ancestors.  Christmas in China is a time of remembrance for those already passed and photos are hung out of respect for them.  It's not a time of sadness, though, it's a time of celebration.
   While sightseeing in the major cities, you'll see plenty of Christmas trees and other decorations, including Nativity scenes which show Jesus.  Mary and Joseph as Chinese, with full Chinese costumes.  Christmas cards are often exchanged, but the cards look much different than they do in America, with the card depicting fish and lotuses, little Chinese kids standing by a tree, or even a Chinese Santa.


   There's lots of places to shop, where you'll find goodies for everyone on your list, but you won't see the mad rush for certain gifts that you'll experience  when shopping during the holidays in America.  If you're trying to avoid the whole holiday scene, though, there are many great things to see in China.  Check out the Beijing Zoo, or the entire city of Beijing, where you'll find much history and architecture.
   The Forbidden City is another must-see while visiting China.  With over 720,000 square meters, the place is massive.  Nearby, the Fragrant Hills Park should be on your itinerary.  And, of course, the Great Wall of China, must be seen before leaving.  Also check out the Lama Temple, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and Wo Fo Si (Temple of Reclining Buddha).

   Whether you're traveling to China to enjoy Christmas there, or you're going to avoid the commercialization of an American Christmas, you'll find exactly what you're looking for...and then some.  China is one of the most beautiful countries...holiday or not...and you'll really enjoy yourself.


    Christmas parades can be seen in cities and towns nationwide.  The parades help usher in Christmas.
   Christmas parades can be small with just a few floats, and a couple of bands, or very large with a lot of floats, several bands, clowns, assorted groups, and cars carrying important people from the community.  But whether the Christmas parades are small or large in size doesn't matter, it's what is at the end of the parade that makes all the difference and that would be Santa Claus!  Seeing Santa Claus means the Christmas season is here!
   Christmas parades have been going strong for 90+ years.  When Christmas parades first started it was more of a way for people who lived in small towns to get together and socialize with each other while watching a very short parade.  The parades were something the communities looked forward to every year.
   One such Christmas parade in California started in 1928.  It was one of the smallest parades ever.  There was only one actress and Santa Claus with his live reindeer.  This Christmas parade was named "The Santa Claus Lane Parade", and it kept that name for many years.

Early years when it was Santa Claus Lane Parade

   The Santa Claus Lane Parade was and is a located in Hollywood, California.  The parade went down Hollywood Boulevard.  This street was decided on because the city wanted to attract families and shoppers to this area during the holiday season.  That idea worked out very well and is still the route for the Christmas parade today, which is 81 years later.
   During the 1930's, 40's, and 50's, the Santa Claus Lane Parade really grew.  There started to be a number of Hollywood movie stars that were part of the Christmas parade and helped support it.  Some of the early stars to be in the parade were Bette Davis, Gene Autry, Mary Pickford, and Angie Dickinson, just to name a few.
   By the 1960's and into the late 70's, the Christmas parade was getting quite large.  There were more and more movie stars and athletes riding in the parade.  There were more floats, bands and clowns than ever before.  There was even a variety of animals that graced the parade route.

Larry King and Newest wife


   In the late 1970's, it was decided that there needed to be increased excitement surrounding the parade and the glamour of Hollywood needed to be brought to everyone.  This was done in three ways.  First, the name of the parade was changed from the Santa Claus Lane Parade to "The Hollywood Christmas Parade".  The second this to happen was the broadcasting of the parade on station KTLA, so that people could watch it from home.  The third thing was the parade route was lengthened to include Sunset Boulevard.  These were all great decisions as they are still working today.
   Today, "The Hollywood Christmas Parade" is star studded.  There are more movie stars, athletes, and entertainers then ever before.  There are equestrians, lots of bands that come from all over, numerous floats and of course Santa Claus, to finish up the parade and start the Christmas season.

Santa and friend


   The Hollywood Christmas Parade, even though it's fun to watch and is very magical and glamorous, it still has educated the public about Hollywood and the interaction Hollywood has with the people of the United States.
   Here is something to remember.  Gene Autry wrote the famous song that was named after the Santa Claus Lane Parade.  So, every time you hear the song "Here Comes Santa Claus", you will know it's about The Hollywood Christmas Parade and the children wating to see Santa Claus.


     In Japan, the most practiced religions are Buddhism and Shinto.  Because of this, Christmas is a more commercial event, much like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day in the United States.  Furthermore, the main celebration revolves around Christmas Eve and not the day that is honored in the West as the day of Christ's birth.
   Though Christmas is not generally celebrated in honor of the birth of Christ, Japanese families enjoy the same focus on the importance and joy of generosity and giving.  Gift giving on Christmas is common.  In families, children believe that only Santa Kuroshu (Santa Claus)gives gifts on Christmas, so children do not give gifts to their parents.  It is believed that Santa has eyes in the back of his head so he can always see what the children are doing.  Children who do not believe in Santa don't receive gifts.

    Christmas trees and lights on homes are becoming more and more common in Japan.  Trees are often decorated with paper lanterns, origami, tinsel, and other ornaments.  Community decorations are becoming more prevalent in places like dance halls and arcades.  Stores are decorated and they sell Christmas items weeks before Christmas in Japan, much like stores in America and other Christian majority countries.  Some families even display manger scenes to tell the Christmas story, though it is thought of more along the lines of the story of Santa.
   Japanese families often enjoy a Christmas Cake on Christmas Eve.  The Christmas Cake is usually a sponge cake covered with strawberries and whipped cream.  Stores try to sell their cakes before Christmas morning, as they don't sell as well after Christmas.  Because of this, the Japanese sometimes sarcastically refer to women over the age of thirty as an "unsold Christmas Cakes".  As for other traditional food fare, turkey is difficult to find in Japan.  Most families try to celebrate with a chicken dinner, preferably the wildy popular Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Japanese Christmas cake

     Much like Valentine's Day in America, it is important for many women to have someone special with which to spend Christmas with.  Christmas Eve night is romanticized as a night of special time and gifts between two people who love each other.  It is considered sad to not have someone special with which to spend this "night for romance" with.
   Though the Christian faith only represents about 1% of the Japanese population, this originally a Christian holiday,  has become very popular and meaningful in Japan.  Over 75% of those polled report that Christmas holds special meaning for them.