With 2 years living in Nanjing, close to Shanghai, on my back and another 2 in Beijing, as well as frequent visits to the fashion and finance center of the South throughout my time up North, I’ve been enjoying comparing the festive spirit and Christmas decorations in both cities on multiple occasions.
Nowadays you will find Christmas music playing non-stop in many of China’s international coffeshop chains and even in most larger shopping centers. Pretty much mid-November the Christmas decorations were also starting to appear in any establishment that fancied itself worldly – and that goes not just for Beijing and Shanghai, but also second-tier cities like Nanjing.
That being said there is always the question of how “genuine”, “tasteful” or surreal the decorations and Christmas celebrations can turn out to be. From Christmas lamas, to Mrs Santa techno flashmobs, Christmas trees decorated with or made out of teddy bears and lots of neon-plastic deco, the festive spirit here can sometimes come across as a little gawdy or just not quite right.
Without much doubt, both Beijing and Shanghai are probably nationwide leaders in Christmas spirit and are getting better at it with every passing year. But is one better than the other? Had you asked me 2 years back I would have without a doubt said that the Western fashion and lifestyle loving Shanghai is the clear winner. With tasteful decorations to be found on the bund, it seemed at the time miles ahead of Beijing, where strange decorative items and festive events abounded.
However, two years on and I am not so sure anymore. Beijing has heaps of amazing Christmas stuff going on. Christmas Bazaars, Markets and Fayres in the Hutongs, with Mulled Wine and Meat Pies. Christmas High Teas at luxury hotel chains. And more Christmas lunches and dinners than you can count. The overall quality of decorations also seems to have gotten much better, as decorations are becoming more sophisticated and tasteful and less screechy, if you know what I mean.
But Shanghai competition is tough! I just went back for a work trip and once I realised this was where I was going I got very giddy at the thought of hitting the Bund and soaking up some of the best Christmas decoration to be found on the Chinese mainland. My very personal absolute favourite is the Peace Hotel (former Cathay Hotel). Not only do they have what I believe to be the most stunning Christmas deco in all of China, I will always remember with the greatest fondness the amazing weekend I got to spend there as part of a media drive. Once in a lifetime kind of weekend! So of course, I had to pop in and see my beloved Peace Hotel Extravaganza and this almost decided the big battle between the two rivals.
However, just before writing this post this afternoon I walked past “The Place”, yet another shopping mall in Beijing and all of a sudden I ran straight into the arms of Santa! I realise he’s not the first Santa to appear in China, but he was the first I ever ran into as I don’t tend to spend my time in many international schools. He was adorable and very much in character, telling me all about his trip over from “Finland”. So, in light of the adorable Santa – who was a marketing stint by a Chinese car company as it turns out – I will have to hand the Christmas Crown to Beijing after all!
PS: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Mobike have changed their locks’ ringtone to Jingle Bells! So much adorable Christmassy-ness – I LOVE IT!
Who wins your Battle for Christmas Capital? Let me know and merry Christmas!