Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Christmas Nightmare

Where are the warm holiday feelings I want to feel this time of year? In Chongqing, perhaps they have been smothered by an ever-present, cold blanket of smog. Beneath it, though there isn't snow, the locals party through the night.

But Christmas partying in China is not what it is back home.

No presents did I see, no carols except the ones meant to lure customers into shops; they brought no cheer to me. At the door of Pizza Hut, waitresses were smiling in a row. All had crimson stocking caps, but no sign of Santa with his sleigh. The last time that I saw him here, his cherubic face adorned the illustration of a naked dancing girl. Older Chinese just shake their heads at strange foreign customs that have no relation to Confucius or Marx. The younger ones have a different idea: to them, Christmas is just another sort of Halloween. A time to party hard.

While Christmas day was fairly quiet--we re-watched Home Alone--the night before and night 'of' were something altogether strange. Straying from my tower preserve, this is what I say: The peasants were on the march! With inflatable spiked clubs in hand. Was this the revolution? Were they off to slay The Man? Had Communist despots' doom come down, or could they be driving foreigners from the land?

Little children with the impish smiles scampered all about. They wore glow-in-the-dark devil's horns in their hair and sprayed silly string up in the air. In the square, thousands thronged and held mock battles with those inflated mallets and clubs--US stars and stripes, or Snoopy emblazoned upon their tips as they smashed into crazed Chinese teenage heads. Oh how fun, you might say, if only it were just a daydream and not your entire Christmas day.

Whap-whap-whap-whap, the sound of so many people having Christmas fights sounded like a full sail pummeled by the wind. A sad little kid dragged a spent and wilted caveman club through the crowd. I felt a bit like I imagined the kid to feel.

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