Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sales, Santas, Apples, Prayer, Police, Beer, Devil Horns, and Balloon Attacks: Some Christmas Sights in Wenzhou, China

Signs of the holiday were easy to spot the day before Christmas in Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang on China's central east coast. In many ways, they were similar to what I had seen previous years in Wuhan, in Changsha, in Putian, and in Zhangzhou.

For example, in a central commercial district, there were numerous holiday promotions, including one with a "I have a dream!" theme at the Kaitai Department Store.

"I have a dream!" department store Christmas promotion sign in Wenzhou

And several stores I passed had people dressed up as skinny Santas.

young Chinese woman dressed up as Santa

But I had never seen as many Santas together as I did at the Wuma Pedestrian Street. A parade of them kept coming . . .

Santas walking down the Wuma Pedestrian Street in Wenzhou

And coming . . .

more Santas

And coming . . .

man more Santas in Wenzhou

And coming . . .

more people dressed up as Santa

And coming . . .

even more people dressed up as Santa

And coming.

person in Santa outside looking at their mobile phone while walking

One of the Santas handed me a gift.

Christmas apple box in Wenzhou, China

As soon as I had the box in my hand I realized it contained a Christmas apple — a tradition in China for Christmas Eve.

Christmas apple in Wenzhou, China

The Santas and their Christmas apples were part of a promotion for a dental clinic. I didn't get my teeth whitened, but the apple was good.

Christmas apples were for sale elsewhere, including at the Washi Lane wet market.

Christmas apples for sale at the Washi Lane wet market in Wenzhou

The Christmas holiday takes on a special significance in Wenzhou and elsewhere in Zhejiang due to recent forced demolitions of churches or removal of their crosses. I didn't seek out any churches, but I did stumble upon a small one on an alley off of Dasheng Lane.

Grace Church in Wenzhou, China

When I first passed by I noticed two men wearing unmarked uniforms standing nearby. Other people greeting guests encouraged me to come inside. They said photography was fine and pointed out the church's ceiling.

sign on church ceiling with words "Jesus Christ Love You"

There were approximately 150 people seated inside. I stuck around for a couple of songs.

youth singing inside a church in Wenzhou, China

As I left, I noticed an unhappy-looking policeman talking to the greeters outside. I didn't stick around to listen. When I passed by the area later, the church was still active and a policeman was keeping an eye on things nearby. It was a far different scene from the 30+ police I saw at a larger church in Quanzhou four years ago.

Not far away on Shuomen Old Street, the Hello K.T. bar had special Christmas all-you-can-drink deals.

Hello K.T. Bar in Wenzhou, China

After not drinking all I could drink, I saw two people who were wearing a type of headgear I had seen a number of others wearing for the holiday.

group of young men, one wearing a head band with Santas and another wearing devil horns

Yes, those are devil horns. No, I don't know how wearing them became a thing. My guess is their red color simply fits in. And lights. It is worth pointing out that for most people in China Christmas is mostly a chance to have some fun and there is no religious meaning attached.

To top things off that day, I stopped by a food fair at Wenzhou's European City.

food fair at European City in Wenzhou

A number of the booths were decorated for the holiday.

sign with words "god bless you! happy everytime, everywhere and everything. yourfried"

And a few people there were full of holiday spirit.

man wearing Santa cap smoking and looking at a mobile phone

Most of the holiday spirit I saw on Christmas day was just more Santas and sales. But at the Wuma Pedestrian Street I saw my favorite Christmas holiday sight this year: two dressed-up children enthusiastically attacking their amused mother (I presume) with weapons made from balloons, a stick, and a giant inflatable pencil. They happily agreed to pose for an action photo.

boy and girl wearing Santa and Mrs. Clause outfits pretending to hold weapons aimed at their mother

Maybe this will give rise to a new holiday tradition in China.

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