It’s Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas celebrated by the British. I promised in my last “fun fact” that I would describe my experience of Christmas in Hong Kong. Here it goes…
Christianity, and by consequence Christmas, is a really difficult topic to talk about because I occupy several social places here in Hong Kong. I work with the Filipino community, which is very religious (predominantly Catholic and not necessarily practicing). On Sunday, my migrant organization in conjunction with several others celebrated Christmas with a big all-day party. We ate lunch, we sang, we danced, we played games, and we exchanged gifts. So, in one sphere, Christmas is a big, widely celebrated holiday.
Additionally, we work with Indonesian migrants who do not celebrate Christmas because the majority of them are Muslim. However, as the shelter is split between Filipino and Indonesian clients, the Indonesians celebrated Christmas with the other shelter clients. The migrant organizations even created Christmas cards to share with all of us in an expression of solidarity.
However, Hong Kong is a predominately Chinese, secular society, so the majority of inhabitants do not celebrate Christmas (meaning the birth of Jesus). BUT, as my fellow mission intern likes to say “the consumer-capitalist aspect of Christmas has really taken hold” in Hong Kong. All the buildings have lovely Christmas displays complete with decorated Christmas trees, fake snowmen, gigantic presents, etc. BUT, people do not seem to decorate. No one purchases a Christmas tree for example. Unfortunately, I do not know if the local, non-Christian population exchanges gifts. Given the prevalence of Christmas gift related advertisements, I expect that some people do exchange presents.
Finally, I attend the Methodist International Church (MIC) here, so I went to Communion service with my fellow interns on Christmas Eve. The church was full like a normal Sundays, so I would guess that Christmas is not a holiday where all the Christians “come out of the woodwork” like in the US where a huge percentage of people only attend church on Christmas Eve and Easter.
Slightly confused? Great! Hong Kong is a place a contradictions with layers of social meaning, so I hope that this post shares a little bit about my attempt to understand these layers. Overall, I had a fantastic Christmas. I felt blessed to be a part of this wonderful, open and welcoming community. For me, this Christmas truly marks the beginning of something great.