Hong Kong harbors my Christmas spirit.
Why Hong Kong, you ask.
A city-country, Hong Kong’s dominant language is Cantonese, and Victoria Harbour cuts through the over-crowded concrete jungle, and slices the island of Hong Kong on the south from the Kowloon peninsula on the southern tip of China. Hong Kong’s dominant languages used to be Cantonese, Mandarin and English in that order. However, after Britain handed over Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the English language took a back-seat.
So, why Hong Kong, you ask again, a land where artistic Chinese characters plaster billboards and street signs and Chinese lion dances are the hallmark of inaugurations. Dragon Boat races in the summer splash contestants to the euphoric clang of cymbals and drums propelling racers down to the finish line. Chinese New Year summons wishes of ‘Kung Hei Fat Choi’, Happy New Year in Cantonese, and a splendorous display of firecrackers along Victoria Harbour. When the glitters shower down, the colorful sparkles reflect in the harbor’s waters and dissolve in the mirror of lights strewn across Hong Kong’s skyscrapers.
Isn’t Christmas a celebration of the birth of Christ and not Buddhism or Taoism — the three pillars of ancient Chinese society? Aren’t Santa Claus and his merry elves figments of our colorful imagination that conjure la-la-lands of reindeers, snow, toyshops, and a sleigh brimming with presents? How can Hong Kong possibly hold a hub of sacred memories of a Christian celebration when I’m Hindu by religion? How am I supposed to revel in the Christmas spirit when I know Santa Claus doesn’t exist and reindeers don’t take off like jet planes?
The answer is simple.
We celebrate Christmas in our own special way.
On Christmas Eve, we hook as many colorful bobbles as possible on our Christmas tree and leave cookies and milk out for Santa — even though ‘the boys’ are well into their twenties. We listen to Christmas carols, holiday music and throw in a little Bollywood bhangra for good measure. We stash unlabeled gifts around the Christmas tree over the course of several days (sometimes weeks) and in a mad rush pen the recipient’s name on Christmas eve. We cook a sumptuous Italian lunch on Christmas day because turkey, ham, meat and fish don’t fit our religion or appetite — we’re vegetarian, you see.
Yet being vegetarian or diverse doesn’t hold us back from enjoying joyful yuletide, disturb our faith in ‘Oh come all ye faithful’ or tremble the holly in ‘Have a holly jolly Christmas’. The lights of celebrations for us began on November fourteenth with Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, and will shine all the way through to the New Year.
When Diwali marked its arrival, we strung tiny twinkle lights outside our home like we always do and will stretch them out until the end of the year. I’m immediately transported back to the grapevine of lights artfully shaped on Hong Kong’s skyscrapers depicting scenes of Santa on a sleigh, reindeers, yule logs, Christmas trees and winter wonderlands. I close my eyes and I’m back midst crowds of people jostling for space along Hong Kong’s waterfront and I can see those lights reflected in Victoria Harbour’s waters. Can you hear the firecrackers and see the sparkles?
Why Hong Kong? You ask again.
The answer is simple.
The spirit of any celebration, no matter what religion or belief stems from within. Close your eyes and you might just see the light of my Christmas.
Thank you for being a part of Santa Watch 2020! Keep reading as we track Santa and giveaway special gifts.
About Anju Gattani
Fiction author and international journalist Anju Gattani earned her bachelor’s degree in English Literature, specialized in Creative Writing, and presents workshops on the craft of fiction writing. Her interests in fusion-cooking, travel and reading help her create stories that explore cultural diversity, domestic violence, abuse, and lost identities.
Anju was born in India, grew up in Hong Kong, and has lived in Singapore and Australia. She currently lives in Atlanta, GA, with her husband, two dashing boys and a rebel lion-head rabbit.
Anju hopes her books will bridge cultures and break barriers.
Read Duty and Desire, the first book in Anju’s acclaimed Winds of Fire series.