Taliban Christmas trees, Bethlehem disco carols, and other yuletide tales from the Monitor's vault

An excuse to shop in Beijing

  • close
    Children make 'Christmas cottages' with cookies and cream at a shopping mall in Huaibei, China, on Dec. 18.
    Li Xin/Newscom
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption

In a Beijing mall, Christmas tunes blared from the loudspeakers – perhaps unexpected in a country that still shuns spirituality and religion. But in China, Christmas isn’t about spirituality, it’s about shopping, and China’s malls in 2008 were happy for any excuse to bring in more shoppers. Monitor correspondent Jonathan Landreth described the scene:

The bright maze of cosmetics counters is festooned with green bunting. White-coated counter women wear mistletoe corsages. Downstairs a florist sells poinsettias, gold tinsel Christmas trees, and strings of flashing fairy lights.

"Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus lane," the PA system chimes.

It’s a similar scene in Thailand, where every December Santa stakes out a spot next to Buddha for a little while. As in China, Christmas in Thailand is a commercial affair, notes correspondent Tibor Krausz:

All around Bangkok, giant neon snowflakes, chubby snowmen, and full-size reindeer sleighs are everywhere. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” pipe nonstop from loudspeakers. Weeks before the holiday, a Christmasy atmosphere is in full swing in this predominantly Buddhist country.

Maybe you should book your next holiday ticket to India or Japan or Vietnam – they're all in on the Christmas festivities as well, according to this 2002 article from then-Asia bureau chief Robert Marquand.

2 of 4