I love Christmas as a religious and cultural event. To be honest, I even prefer it to the Chinese New Year.
1) Greetings: Peace vs Money
At Christmas time, the greetings are generally ‘Merry Christmas’ or a ‘Happy New Year.’ People also wish you joy, peace and harmony. However, one of the most common greetings for the Chinese New Year is 恭喜发财 － ‘gōngxǐ fācái’ (or in Cantonese, Gong Hei Fat Choi). It means ‘Wishing you Wealth’. Many more Chinese New Year expressions are related to ‘money and prosperity’. Many Chinese New Year songs are all about ‘gōngxǐ fācái’, and ‘the god of wealth has arrived’. Money is important and the concept of wealth is so ingrained in the Chinese psyche.
2) Atmosphere: Calmness vs Bustling with noise and excitement
I’ve experienced Christmas as a calm and peaceful festival. However, the Chinese New Year is always bustling with noise and excitement, in or outside of your house. There is an expression in Chinese called 热闹 rènào, which is impossible to translate into English, as there is no such concept in the English language. 热闹 rènào can be vaguely translated as ‘bustling with joy, noise and excitement; heat and boisterous’. Deborah Fallows, in her fabulous book, Dreaming in Chinese, described 热闹 rènào is ‘the default mode of Chinese social life’. The Chinese way of life is not about your personal space, it’s all about ‘togetherness’. If I try to use one word to summarise my Chinese New Year experiences, the word would be ‘noise’.