On Christmas Eve, a couple friends and I decided to head downtown to see what the crowds were like outside one of the churches in Beijing. With Christmas becoming more and more popular (at least as a consumer festival), there is also an increased interest in attending Christmas Eve services at the local churches. We had heard that there were long lines to get in last year, and that the radio was reporting that large crowds were anticipated this year as well. Not wanting to actually stand in line ourselves, we decided to go look at them.
We were not disappointed. We estimated that there were approximately 500+ people standing out in the cold waiting to get in. The church was running 5 back-to-back services, so when one service was over, the next lot of 500 or so was allowed in. Police were managing the lines, and everyone was in a very festive mood. I asked one lady how long she had been standing there and she joyfully said “one and a half hours.” It’s impossible to imagine Americans standing in line for an hour and a half on a cold winter’s night waiting to get into a church!
On our way home, we spotted a sight that made us laugh out loud. As we came to an intersection, suddenly a scooter darted out in front of us, and the guy driving the scooter was wearing a Santa suit! A man in a suit was riding on the back and seemed to have a stack of something in his hand. As we slowly followed him in the traffic, we watched him pull up to people standing at bus stops, or riding their bikes on the street, and give them something. As we got closer, I rolled down the window and yelled “Merry Christmas” in Chinese. They then handed us their goodies—2 free calendars—then sped away.
Even our taxi driver was laughing. “Everyone is festive tonight,” he said. “It’s Christmas Eve!”