Thursday, December 14, 2006
A Gray Christmas
That's what you get when you're living in a steel town. Pollution isn't an issue just in Laiwu - most of the major cities, especially those along the north and east of the country, are plagued by car exhaust and manufacturing fumes. But I was thinking about this mostly because I was walking to work this morning and saw a pint-sized fake Christmas tree adorned in red tinsel being suffocated by smog. As sad a sight as that was, I was more surprised to see a Christmas tree at all. Most people here don't really understand what Christmas celebrates and represents. The concept of Jesus as a religious figure doesn't really exist in their culture and I have not yet come across a Chinese Christian.

But there is interest in learning about our holiday traditions. At least three times a day, I am asked how I celebrate Christmas. Upon telling them that I'm Jewish and don't actually celebrate Christmas, they then ask me what I do celebrate. Try to imagine a Chinese person pronouncing the word "Chanukah." Really, try it. It's that first throaty "ch" that gets them. But to be fair, half the population of the United States can't pronounce it properly either. People are mystified by the concept of Judaism here. There's a certain ignorance about the religion, its beliefs, and its origins. It's not a Mel Gibson-type ignorance. In fact, to the contrary: the one consistent response I've received to telling people I'm Jewish is "Oh, Jewish people are all really smart - you must be so smart." Isn't that fantastic? Over three billion people think we're geniuses. Take that, Iran.

Still, despite not understanding much about Judaeo-Christian beliefs and holidays, I have seen Christmas trees, Chinese character ornaments, and twinkle light decorations in Laiwu. Now all they need is a red dragon Menorah and the holiday season in Laiwu will be complete.
posted by Rachel @ 11:38 AM  
THE WILD WILD EAST: Everything you never knew you didn't know about life on the other side.
In China, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The Chinese, who call this land "home," and the expats who migrate here. My name is Rachel. I am an expat. These are my stories.
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