Pages

Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A Countdown for the New Year that Didn't Happen in Zhongshan

After finishing my last post of 2018, I headed out to see see what the final moments of 2018 and the first moments of 2019 would bring in Zhongshan. I didn't expect the city would have anything even close to the spectacular New Year's fireworks I saw last year in Taipei, but I figured I could stumble upon something.

As I walked towards the Central Power Plaza, a shopping mall at one end of the popular Sun Wen West Road Pedestrian street, I noticed that both the vehicular and foot traffic was far heavier than usual so late at night. And when I finally arrived at the shopping area, I saw that the Christmas tree there was still up and the large mostly open square was packed with people far more densely than I had ever seen it before.

So I joined the masses. Midnight was mere minutes away, and I asked one couple why so many people had gathered there. They said they had no idea themselves and had similarly joined in hoping to catch whatever there might be to catch.

people gathering to celebrate the first moments of 2019 at Central Power Plaza in Zhongshan, China


I then noticed that a number of people appeared to be video recording a large digital display on a building across the street.

a dark large digital display on a building


Aha . . .

But nothing ever appeared on the display. And soon a small number of people, presumably with the help of their mobile phones, simultaneously counted down from ten to zero.

Nothing happened. After a few moments quite a few people emitted sighs of disappointment. Suddenly, what sounded like fireworks livened things up, but there were no visual signs of them in any direction. After just a few explosions all was back to as it was before, except now people were quickly dispersing.

After milling about a bit, I asked a group of young women if they knew why everybody had gathered. I was luckier this time, and they explained that in past years, including last year, a countdown to the end of the year would appear on the large screen. They had assumed the same would once again happen this year. The one woman said she suspected the government had decided it wasn't safe anymore and had canceled it. I asked her what she thought about the safety issue and she said "Well, I came here. I don't think there's a problem."

Like others, they seemed deflated. So I told them I sort of found the experience exciting. After they asked why, I explained that I had never before experienced anything quite like this on New Year's Eve— everybody tightly packed together anticipating a big countdown and celebration and then . . . mostly nothing, not even the countdown. It was almost surreal. I could now say I certainly had had yet another special experience to bring in a new year.

At least my perspective appeared to amuse them.

So I wished them a happy new year and headed away. I knew the perfect thing to do. I would have my first 2019 drink at a bar I hadn't visited before with a name that seemed to describe much about the past year, including its last moments.

Fittingly for its name, after a long walk I was surprised to find it closed.

The W.T.F. Bar in Zhongshan China


Yet again, somebody felt amused.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Apples, Trees, and Santa Hats: More Christmas Scenes from Zhongshan, China

During this blog's life, I have shared Christmas scenes from a variety of cities in China such as, in chronological order, Wuhan, Putian, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou, Hong Kong, and Wenzhou. The Wuhan post includes general information about the holiday in China that still largely holds. To complement the scenes of a Christmas Midnight Mass in Zhongshan I recently witnessed this year, below I will share a set of photos capturing some other aspects of how the holiday was celebrated in Zhongshan, even if just for fun with little or no religious connotation. The post isn't as extensive as many of the earlier posts and none of the displays I saw were as elaborate as the somewhat surreal Star Wars Christmas display at a mall in Shanghai several years ago. But they offer a peak at the holiday in yet another city in China.

Not at all surprising, one of the first signs of the holiday I noticed on Christmas Eve night were two young women setting up a display of traditional-in-China Christmas apples in decorative boxes for sale.

young woman setting up a display of Christmas apples in Zhongshan


I wondered about their choice of location in the midst of a small informal night market in front of Fuye Square. All I can say is that just as I was about to walk away they already had potential customers.

young men looking at Christmas apples for sale in Zhongshan


Not very far away on the Qijiang Bridge, I saw more people selling Christmas apples.

Christmas apples for sale on Qijiang Bridge in Zhongshan


At the time they were keeping an eye out for relevant authorities some other vendors thought soon might be on the way to stop such activities.

On the other side of the bridge, the Central Power Plaza shopping mall had a large Christmas tree outside.

Christmas tree at Central Power Plaza in Zhongshan, China


Unsurprisingly, it was a popular location to take photos, including for a group of women wearing Santa hats.

people taking photographs next to a Christmas tree


On the nearby Sun Wen West Road Pedestrian Street, more Santa hats could be found.

two young women wearing Santa hats while walking on the Sun Wen West Road Pedestrian Street in Zhongshan


On Christmas Day, I stopped by Lihe Plaza. In addition to the Christmas tree outside, there were also giant reindeers and a Santa Claus above the main entrance to the shopping mall.

Christmas tree and giant reindeers and Santa Claus at Lihe Plaza in Zhongshan


In one open air pedestrian area there was a market set up with a theme mixing Christmas and Pihotrain — a young Shenzhen-based company with Disney-like ambitions.

Pihotrain Christmas market at Lihe Plaza in Zhongshan, China


Most of the vendors in the market were similar to those I have seen in the same location when the market has had other themes. But at least one vendor added a Christmas touch with decorations.

vendor stall with Santa-themed decorations


And one vendor even added Christmas apples to their selection.

vendor selling jewelry and Christmas apples


We're back to the apples, so this seems like a good time to say, yet again, "that is all", at least for Zhongshan. Some day / year I hope to share past Christmas scenes that never made it here from at least two cities not mentioned above. Until then, enjoy the apples.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Scenes During Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at a Catholic Church in Zhongshan, China

Several days ago on Christmas Eve I stopped by the Immaculate Conception Church (圣母无原罪堂), also known as the Shiqi Catholic Church (石岐天主教堂), in Zhongshan, China, while it was holding Midnight Mass. Below are a few photos I took along with some very brief commentary. When I looked inside, the church was packed, and people were singing.

people observing Midnight Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church (圣母无原罪堂), also known as the Shiqi Catholic Church (石岐天主教堂), in Zhongshan, China


Outside the church, people could be found praying as well.

people praying


Some took advantage of the holiday photographic opportunities.

Christmas tree at the Immaculate Conception Church (圣母无原罪堂), also known as the Shiqi Catholic Church (石岐天主教堂), in Zhongshan, China


There were at least two children handing out packets of peanuts and candies.

boy handing out candies


One girl outside was wearing red horns, which I have seen on Christmas Eve before.

girl wearing glowing red horns


Similar to when I visited a church in Quanzhou, Fujian, on Christmas Eve six years ago, there were a number of people wearing clothing identifying they were there to help.

staff wearing "Jesus Loves You" vests


Also similar to Quanzhou, there was a clear presence of relevant authorities in uniform, though far fewer — not especially surprising since this church in Zhongshan is smaller.

And there was one thing I didn't see in Quanzhou which stood out. The recent growth in the use of QR codes to make payments or transfer money was on display.

QR Code for "Parish Donation Wechat Transfer Account"


Long story short, my sense was that that some people were interested in observing the religious aspects of the holiday while others, especially those outside, were more interested in less religious aspects or simply curious. Midnight Mass ended at 11 p.m. but some people were still there more than 15 minutes later when I left after a helpful discussion with one of the assistants.

Immaculate Conception Church (圣母无原罪堂), also known as the Shiqi Catholic Church (石岐天主教堂), in Zhongshan, China


That's all. Later I will share some other scenes of Christmas spirit in Zhongshan, some of course including the traditional Christmas apples.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Lunar New Year Spirit Is Already Coming Out in China

The Lunar New Year, also known in China as the Spring Festival, isn't until February 5. But it isn't to early to see signs of it in China's stores.

Yesterday at a store for V.S. Holiday, a men's clothing retailer headquartered in Zhongshan, China, I saw a sign announcing their Spring Festival sale.

Spring Festival sales sign at at V.S. Holiday store in Zhongshan


And not long after that, also in Zhongshan, I saw employees setting up displays of Lunar New Year items for sale at a Carrefour.

Spring Festival items for sale at a Carrefour in Zhongshan


Notably, at both V.S Holiday and Carrefour there were also clear signs of the upcoming Christmas holiday as well. So much holiday spirit . . .

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Hanukkah in Shanghai Far From the Holocaust

Shanghai, China, 1939, a Hanukkah party for refugee children in the Twig family's home
"Shanghai, China, 1939, a Hanukkah party for refugee children in the Twig family's home"
From Hanukkah - The Festival of Lights: Before, During and After the Holocaust
Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sales, Gift Cards, and a Turkey Leg: Some Retail and Personal Thanksgiving in Zhongshan

Most Americans would likely be surprised to learn that Thanksgiving is celebrated, even if just to a minor degree, in China. This isn't using the word "Thanksgiving" to refer to a traditional Chinese holiday with similar themes. This is the Thanksgiving celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November as in the U.S., though with some differences.

Based on my own observations and conversations with people, my sense is that in general people are far less aware of the holiday than Western holidays such as Christmas and perhaps to a lesser degree Halloween. And those who are aware of it tend to be younger in age. In short, I would describe it as not being a big deal, but it's there to a degree. Yes, "a degree" leaves a lot of wiggle room, and I need it here.

Like with many other holidays in China, some retailers are happy to jump at the opportunity to use the holiday for a promotion. For example, in Xiaolan, a town roughly 20-25 km (more than 12 miles) from Zhongshan's central area, the entrance to a Superior City Department Store had a distinctly Thanksgiving theme.

Thanksgiving Day promotion at the Superior City Department Store in Xiaolan, Zhongshan


The signs explicitly mentions the Thanksgiving holiday along with a special opportunity to earn a 50 yuan (currently about US $7.20) shopping card if you spend at least 888 yuan. The number 8 is considered very lucky in Chinese culture, and its use is unlikely accidental even in the Thanksgiving setting.

I can't answer why the gift card isn't 88 yuan as well. And admittedly, it wasn't entirely effortless for me to sort out the English message on the sign, which notably doesn't appear in Chinese.

sales sign with "The Chance Is Only This Time Miss, Wait Another Year. Happy Thanksgiving"


I believe the intended meaning is something like: "Now is your only chance. Miss it and you'll have to wait another year."

In central Zhongshan, I saw a few other Thanksgiving sales.

Thanksgiving Day promotion at China Gold
China Gold jewelry store


Thanksgiving Day sale sign at a Xiaomi Mi Home Store in Zhongshan
Xiaomi Mi Home Store


Sign for a Thanksgiving Sale at Erke in Zhongshan
Erke — a Chinese sports brand


Also, you could buy a Thanksgiving themed gift card at Starbucks.

Starbucks gift cards for sale in Zhongshan, China


Or you could participate in a Thanksgiving event at Meten — an English language school chain — which took place a couple of days after the holiday.

Sign for a Thanksgiving Day event at Meten


And I came across one American-style restaurant — Hey Farm —offering a special Thanksgiving meal.

signs for Hey Farm Thanksgiving Day special meal in Zhongshan


Now I will switch to a brief account of my personal Thanksgiving experience — in particular my dinner in Zhongshan. The Hey Farm option didn't appeal due to the lack of turkey. I suspected a few other Western-style restaurants might have special meals for the day, but I figured they would already be fully booked.

So I focused on a option that has worked well in the past, including last year in Wuhan, and planned on a buffet at a Western hotel. This year, things didn't go quite as smoothly. I initially expected to eat turkey at the Sheraton Zhongshan Hotel. However, to my surprise that afternoon I discovered they wouldn't have a turkey or anything else special for the holiday. After that, I went for plan B and just showed up hoping for the best.

I am pleased to say the Hilton Zhongshan Downtown indeed prepared a turkey for their buffet. There didn't appear to be anything else special to Thanksgiving in their offerings but no matter. I scored a whole turkey leg, and the cranberry sauce gravy was excellent.

chef cutting off a turkey leg


Additionally, for the first time ever I drank a Haizhu beer — a brand from neighboring Zhuhai —with my Thanksgiving meal.

Yes, shrimp, snails, and bamboo too


To top it all off, I also enjoyed a good dose of horse milk baijiu. I must say I enjoyed the flavor, not easy for a 52% alcohol drink to manage.



Merriment followed.

So thanks to Zhongshan for giving me a taste of Thanksgiving as I'm used to having back in the U.S. The horse milk baijiu really made it though.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Fog Machines, Doves, and Target Heads: More Singles Day Promotions in Zhongshan

dancers at Chotef (周大发) promotion for Singles Day in Zhongshan
Dancing for Singles Day in Zhongshan, China


A number of promotions for Singles day began early last week in Zhongshan. In one of the many signs that retailers weren't content to celebrate Singles Day on just one single day, on Saturday, the day before the holiday, a Chotef (周大发) jewelry store at the west end of the Sun Wen West Road Pedestrian Street held a Singles Day promotion including performances.

Chotef (周大发) promotion for Singles Day in Zhongshan


During the late afternoon, I saw some women dancing, similar to an earlier Halloween performance elsewhere in Zhongshan. Unlike what I saw at a similar promotion at a jewelry store in Ganzhou, there wasn't a dancing dinosaur, but at least there was a fog machine.

fog machine working at Chotef (周大发) promotion for Singles Day in Zhongshan


When I passed by later during the evening, I caught the end of another performance.

evening Chotef (周大发) promotion for Singles Day in Zhongshan


For a change of pace that many children seemed to particularly enjoy, afterwards a magician performed.

magician with a white dove dancers at Chotef (周大发) promotion for Singles Day in Zhongshan


A live dove appeared thrilled about its magical appearance.

I didn't return to this location on Singles Day, but presumably there was more of the same. Elsewhere, I didn't notice much occurring other than the typical sales for the holiday.

But there was one thing which really caught my eye. Earlier, I shared an example of a Singles Day promotion at a store for the Chinese clothing brand La Chapelle. A La Chapelle store at another mall in Zhongshan was holding the same promotion, except they had a display I hadn't seen before.

La Chapelle display for Singles Day with targets for women's heads


Using dartboards for heads in a Singles Day promotional display of women's clothing seemed . . . off target. Since this didn't seem like something I would miss and I was later near the first store I had noticed, I double-checked, and indeed it had no similar display. So perhaps La Chapelle didn't intend for its stores to depict women's heads as targets, and this is a single lone example.

In any case, though some stores have concluded their Singles Day promotion since the holiday is over, some haven't. So if you want to enjoy Chotef's special deals for the holiday, you have until November 19 — eight whole single days extra.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Christmas Trees and Not Quite Thermal Underwear: Signs of the Season at a Walmart in Zhongshan, China

While some retailers in China have moved on from promotions for Halloween to ones for the upcoming Singles Day, others are already bringing attention to holidays more distant in the future. For example, at Zhongshan's only Walmart* Christmas-themed items are now on sale.

Christmas trees for sale at a Walmart in Zhongshan, China


Christmas items for sale at a Walmart in Zhongshan, China


Christmas items for sale at a Walmart in Zhongshan, China


The items immediately greet customers when they enter the store. And near them are indications that although daytime temperatures are still reaching into the low 80s (high 20s in Celsius) the weather in in Zhongshan will get chillier.

jackets on display under "thermal underwear" signs at a Walmart in Zhongshan


However, I don't think those jackets count as thermal underwear. Just to be clear, the problem here isn't one of translation but of categorization. Good luck to anybody trying to wear those jackets under their clothes.

And finally, snow is extremely uncommon in Zhongshan, and rain remains a possibility during winter months. So of course Walmart sells umbrellas as well.

scarves on display under an "umbrellas" sign at a Walmart in Zhongshan


Once again, good luck.




*Not long ago there was another Walmart store, but it is now no more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

From Halloween to Singles Day at Toys "R" Us in China

Not so surprisingly, the Halloween sale at a Toys "R" Us in Zhongshan, China, ended on Halloween — October 31. Also not so surprisingly, it was only a short time before the store began another promotion. From November 2 until November 11 Toys "R" Us will celebrate Single's Day with a sale on a variety of toys.

Singles Day sale display at a Toys "R" Us in Zhongshan


As described by Lisa Lacy in an Adweek article about the holiday not taking off in the U.S.:
Singles Day started out [in China] as an anti-Valentine’s Day movement among college students in 1993. They picked 11/11 because it’s a date comprised of ones. The concept: Treat yourself.

Alibaba co-opted it in 2009 as an excuse to push winter coats, and the rest is history: Since then, China’s online audience has grown to more than 800 million consumers by Alibaba’s count. Along the way, Singles Day has matured into the single biggest shopping day in the world—selling more than $25 billion in 24 hours last year.
Children are indeed single, so I suppose it fits. The promotion is perhaps more reflective of how many businesses use a variety of holidays for promotions without necessarily intending any deep connection between the products on sale and the actual holiday.

Many other retailers in China are having Singles Day sales, including a store for a Chinese clothing brand that is a short walk from the Toys "R" Us.

Singles Day sale at La Chapelle in Zhongshan


The impact of the holiday on sales, including online, will be closely watched to see if it provides further indication that China's economy is slowing. In any case, if you are thinking of buying a mini foosball table, now might be your best time — especially if you're single.

Singles Day sale on mini foosball table on then Toys "R" Us China website
Source

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Black Dumplings, Gourds, and a Meaty Mannequin: Halloween Spirit in Zhongshan, China

In past years I have shared Halloween-related scenes from cities such as Taipei in 2011, Changsha in 2012, Shaoguan in 2015, Shenyang in 2016, and most recently Changsha again in 2017. The posts have numerous photos of people in costumes, promotions, and food. Perhaps some day I will fill in some of what I missed sharing here, which includes Halloween experiences in Dalian, Shanghai, and Zhuhai. But for now I will share a sample of what I saw in Zhongshan, since it is where I spent Halloween this year.

One of the earliest signs of Halloween I came across was a promotion at 7-Eleven stores which began weeks before the holiday. Yes, I gave the three black cuttlefish items a try.

Halloween black cuttlefish foods at 7-Eleven in Zhongshan, China


The dumplings were tasty with some Sriracha-style sauce, but a couple of them were rather soggy. The sausage was too dried out. The cuttlefish balls were OK. None of it was as good as the black spidery pizza I tried at Pizza Hut in Shenyang two years ago. At least 7-Eleven had a special price for getting the three together. Not all the items were specially made for Halloween, but the dumplings are now gone.

To wash down all of that cuttlefish ink, 7-Eleven had a special Halloween deal on . . . Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey lemonade and cola drinks of course.

7-Eleven sign for Halloween sale of Jack Daniel's drinks


Moving on . . .

Three years ago I saw a Halloween display at n RT-Mart in Shaoguan. This year in Zhongshan, RT-Mart kept up the Halloween spirit.

Display of Halloween items for sale at an RT-Mart in Zhongshan


Display of Halloween items for sale at an RT-Mart in Zhongshan


Their selection possibly surpassed what was available at a Toys "R" Us in Zhongshan. Also, the display had a dark area inside of it where glowing items could be tested.

children playing with toys inside a display of Halloween items for sale at an RT-Mart in Zhongshan


A Carrefour in Zhongshan similarly had Halloween items for sale.

Display of Halloween items for sale at a Carrefour in Zhongshan, China


Carrefour took it up another notch, though, with a Halloween gourd display.

Halloween display of gourds for sale at a Carrefour in Zhongshan, China


The Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall had a Halloween-themed food fair as part of celebrations for the one year anniversary of its newest section.

Halloween-themed inflated arch at the Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall in Zhongshan, China


Several nights before Halloween, the fair was packed.

Halloween food fair at the Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall in Zhongshan, China


None of the food itself was any different from what could appear at any other food fairs, but at least one of the sellers was in the holiday spirit.

man wearing a caveman costume


There was also occasional dancing.

young women dancing


On Halloween day there were a variety of activities. The Lihe Plaza shopping mall appeared prepared for a musical performance, but I didn't stick around to listen.

Stage with a halloween theme at Lihe Plaza


One popular gathering area that night was the central outdoor area at the Central Power Plaza shopping mall, where there were several people painting faces as part of a promotion.

people gathered for Halloween activities at Central Power Plaza in Zhongshan


By 10 p.m on Halloween night at the Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall, many of the vendors at the food fair had already packed up and departed. But even with a now sagging arch, there were still photographic opportunities.



Some bars, including one at the mall, also got into the holiday spirit. In part because most are far separated from one another, I didn't bother with a pub crawl — so no photos. I also won't be sharing a set of photos of people dressed up for the holiday. See the earlier posts for plenty of those. But here's one of a pirate sitting at McDonald's on Halloween night:

young woman wearing a pirate hat sitting at McDonald's in Zhongshan, China


Finally, for the first time ever I will award a winner (of what I happened to see) for best Halloween spirit. Carrefour wins hands down. No, the Halloween items for sale or the glorious gourds aren't what led to this special distinction.

Instead, I introduce the Halloween Dried Meats Witch:

female mannequin dressed in dried meats and wearing a Halloween witch hat


Perhaps that will become a popular costume for next year.