Thursday, December 15, 2005

Chestnuts Roasting in an Open Barrel

Hong Kong is a strange place but it is at Christmas when the strangeness is in full bloom or at least full view.

There are writers such as David Marshall who write about the hidden hand of God in Chinese culture. His books are often insightful on many levels but the fact remains, if you didn’t grow up here, culture wise, China is a different planet from the Western world. But, one area where the cultures overlap is chestnuts. This traditional Christmas or winter snack is probably more popular in China than it is in North America. In China and also in Hong Kong and Taiwan you often find old men with a push cart fitted with a barrel of burning coal roasting chestnuts and selling them to any hungry passers by on chilly nights. I don’t really like chestnuts. There is something about the texture that feels wrong in my mouth. However, I always appreciate these street chestnut vendors.

Other hawkers selling cheap watches, clothing or tourist trinkets are more trouble than they are worth but the roasting chestnuts simply smell good. I guess it is like the roommate I used to have who loved the smell of coffee but didn’t drink it. The smell of roasting chestnuts provides a rich homey and wholesome smell in many Chinese cities that are in dire need of such smells.

Once you get beyond chestnuts Christmas in Hong Kong kind of defines the words: “Crass, Materialistic, Shallow, and Meaningless.” The lights of the buildings are a hodgepodge of Christmas New-Year and Chinese New Year. It doesn’t seem that it matters much what holiday is being celebrated as long as someone spends money on it.

And then, just when I’m not looking for it this billboard pops up in front of my bus.

(A picture will be inserted when I get my camera working again)

There are also double deck buses with a manger scene painted on the side and the words “Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas” sponsored by a shopping center in Mong Kok.

The last two years I’ve seen a choir singing carols in Chinese in front of the public library near where I live. I think they are from a Chinese language church but I really don't know who they are or why they choose that spot.

There is a manger scene and a church in the public square Christmas decorations in front of the Legislative Council building.

Maybe I’ve been too quick to judge Christmas in Hong Kong. Or, maybe David Marshall is onto something.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Its Beginning to look a Lot Like Christmas Blogger

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