Making Christmas Chinese: “a yellow Christmas for yellow skin”

Since so many of our Christmas traditions are only two or three generations old anyway, why not make Christmas yellow?

A yellow yellow yellow Christmas
A yellow yellow yellow miracle will appear
A yellow yellow yellow Christmas
Oh! A yellow Christmas for yellow skin


Could Christmas ever become Chinese? It’s complicated. For starters: What does that question even mean? And then there’s Christmas’ thorny and conflicted association with Western culture and imperialism, which this translated article lays it out well enough:

…we have a particularly strong feeling that Christianity is a foreign religion.

…sometimes Christmas faces an embarrassing situation in China nowadays. In the eyes of some Chinese, Christmas is like a white wedding dress, which is Western. When Christmas comes, the whole society is filled a with strong commercial atmosphere.

…Christmas is a symbol of Western cultural invasion. For the vast majority of non-Christians in China, Christianity is only related to Christianity and shopping. As a result, Christmas has been resisted in China several times in recent years. With the spread of the internet, the trend of resistance is intensifying.

Ten Ph.Ds from ten well-known China’s universities including Beijing University and Tsinghua University jointly published an article online on Dec 21, 2006, calling for resistance to Christmas.

The topic of celebrating Christmas seems to appear every year… the groups who boycott Christmas range from the ten left-wing cultural scholars to cultural conservatives. Laid-off workers, farmers, young students, and veterans are also included.
Christmas has become a symbol which stands for overseas culture. Even Chinese who celebrate the festival think so. Few people are concerned about how Chinese Christians should celebrate Christmas under their own cultural background…

But despite the kind of Christmas you’re most likely to witness in China, and the calls to reject Christmas outright, apparently some people are attempting to meaningfully Chinese-ify Christmas. And the attempts are… interesting, at least. The article I quoted above gives two examples. Here’s the first: Yellow Christmas by Huang Guolun (1999):

Yellow Christmas 黄色圣诞

Words & Music: Huang Guolun 词/曲:黄国伦
Performed by Huang Guolun, Zhu Yuexin, Mai Kelin 演唱:黄国伦、朱约信、苏郁修
(Listen: Youtube, Youtube, Xiami, Tudou)

When I was young I dreamed of a snowy Christmas
小的时候 我曾梦想下雪圣诞节
Waiting by my bed for Santa to appear
The days went by year after year
日子过了一年又一年 我什麽也没看见
Oh! Childhood fantasies, a White Christmas
OH! 童年幻想 白色圣诞节
White White Christmas White White Christmas

That year I broke up with her in a rainy December
Sitting in church with red-rimmed eyes singing Silent Night
The choir sang it again and again, I felt little comfort
诗班唱了一遍又遍 我觉得有点安慰
Oh! Lost love’s dejection, a blue Christmas
OH! 失恋忧鬱 蓝色圣诞节
Blue Blue Christmas Blue Blue Christmas

’til now, I can taste the flavour of Christmas
直到现在 我才尝到圣诞的滋味
The most beautiful gift that God gave to people
In the grim reality of this world there’s sunshine shining in the door of my heart
在这冷酷现实的世界 有阳光照心扉
Oh! Golden warmth, a yellow Christmas
OH! 金黄温暖 黄色圣诞节

A yellow yellow yellow Christmas
Yellow Yellow 黄色圣诞节
A yellow yellow miracle will appear
Yellow Yellow 奇迹会出现
A yellow yellow yellow Christmas
Yellow Yellow 黄色圣诞节
A yellow Christmas for yellow skin
OH! 黄皮肤的黄色圣诞节

I want to celebrate Christmas, not just dance and spend money
We can invest heartfelt concern into this suffering world
Just like Jesus without complaint or regret devoted His whole self
就像耶稣无怨无悔 奉献祂一切
Oh! The wonder of God’s love, a yellow Christmas!
OH! 主爱奇妙 黄色圣诞节


That article’s second example appeared on the Chinese internet at the end of 2016 — a Henan folk opera that has Jesus being born in Zhumadian. I went searching and found it being passed around the chinternet as a joke:

“Three days after the winter solstice, little Jesus was born in Zhumadian. The Three Magi brought a box of apples, five jin of pork, and ten jin of flour. Mary had a red egg in her hand and Joseph was busy rolling the dumpling dough. The innkeeper brought a bowl of brown sugar and ginger drink, and called, “Elder Sister, you drink this so you don’t catch a cold.” The Party Secretary of Zhumadian village heard the news, rushed over and said, “Hallelujah! But you still have to get a Temporary Residence Permit.” Just as the sky outside the barn was turning late, everyone in the barn ate apples for peace. Red flags flutter at every home in Zhumadian, and they celebrated Christmas with firecrackers and the cry and clamour of gongs and drums.”

Recently I just happened upon a third example, sort of: a creative Nativity rewrite by an ABC pastor in San Fransisco, which points out how the ancient culture in which the Christmas Story occurs resembles Chinese culture more than Western culture: What if Jesus were born in my ancestral village in China?


More about Chinese racial talk and attempts to Sinicize Christmas:

Traditional Chinese Christmas Songs: 《欢乐佳音歌》 & 《圣诞感恩歌》

A couple Christmases ago we shared mp3s of traditional Christmas songs that had been Chinese-ified. This year you get some genuine Chinese Christmas songs, as in songs written by Chinese in Chinese and in a Chinese style, rather than sounding like corrupted English songs. The first song is especially good for language students; it’s so repetitive that you only have to learn four lines.

I tried to find well-produced recordings of arrangements that would sound good to Western ears, but each link below fails on one or both accounts (this is not surprising for a lot of traditional Chinese music). But the point is that it’s a Chinese song anyway, so you get what you get, which in this case is 10000x tamer than the inebriated felines of Beijing opera.

Mouseover the Chinese below to see the pronunciation. My translation is veeery rough.

《欢乐佳音歌》 Joyous Tidings

#83 in the TSPM hymnal (赞美诗)
Listen: here and here.

欢乐圣诞佳音大家来歌唱 耶路撒冷欢呼弥赛亚为王
Joyous Christmas tidings, everyone come sing, Jerusalem hails the Messiah as King
锡安全地报道救主已降临 耶稣基督甘愿卑贱救众人
Zion the whole earth announces the saviour has come,
Jesus Christ willingly humbly rescues everyone

欢乐圣诞佳音大家来歌唱 耶路撒冷欢呼弥赛亚为王
Joyous Christmas tidings, everyone come sing, Jerusalem hails the Messiah as King

欢乐圣诞佳音大家来歌唱 耶路撒冷欢呼弥赛亚为王
Joyous Christmas tidings, everyone come sing, Jerusalem hails the Messiah as King
普世万民齐来传扬主降生 赐下救恩万众信徒蒙恩深
All the people in all the world, come spread the news that the Lord is born,
bestowing salvation, multitudes of believers receive profound grace

欢乐圣诞佳音大家来歌唱 耶路撒冷欢呼弥赛亚为王
Joyous Christmas tidings, everyone come sing, Jerusalem hails the Messiah as King

欢乐圣诞佳音大家来歌唱 耶路撒冷欢呼弥赛亚为王
Joyous Christmas tidings, everyone come sing, Jerusalem hails the Messiah as King
信徒大家恭敬献上感谢心 天军同唱哈利路亚满天庭
All believers respectfully offer God thankful hearts,
sing hallelujah together with Heaven’s hosts filling Heaven

欢乐圣诞佳音大家来歌唱 耶路撒冷欢呼弥赛亚为王
Joyous Christmas tidings, everyone come sing, Jerusalem hails the Messiah as King

《圣诞感恩歌》 Christmas Thanksgiving

#84 in the TSPM hymnal (赞美诗)
Listen: here and here.

耶稣来人间 神爱世人 / Jesus comes to earth, God loves the people of the world
主为救人类 道成肉身 / The Lord saves humanity, ‘The Word becomes Flesh’
天使唱赞歌 颂主下凡尘 / Angels sing praise, an ode to God who came to earth
神恩真浩大 比海还要深 / God’s grace is truly great, even deeper than the ocean

当年主降生 牧人闻讯 / When the Lord was born, shepherds heard the news
前往伯利恒 朝拜圣婴 / Went ahead to Bethlehem to worship the holy infant
归来乐无限 报告主降生 / Come back with unbounded happiness, reporting the Lord’s birth
全城都传开 基督已来临 / The whole city spreads the news, Christ has come

救主来世界 赐人和平 / The Saviour comes to the world, bestowing on people peace
马槽里安身 四周宁静 / In a manger taking shelter, all around is tranquil
我们感谢主 得闻此佳音 / We give thanks to the Lord, hearing these good tidings
效法三博士 献上一片心 / Imitate the Three Wisemen, offering up hearts of thanks

赞美主降生 万众欢腾 / Praise for the Lord’s birth, universal celebration
我们今得着 神子名分 / We now can have the status of God’s children
生活有盼望 从此享永生 / Life has hope, from now on enjoying eternal life
美满又幸福 全靠主鸿恩 / Blissful and blessed, completely depending on God’s great grace

The coworker who introduced me to these says that both are homegrown Chinese Christmas songs, though I think I hear some traditional Western hymn-i-ness in the second one especially.

Anyway, if you’ve got Chinese Christmas music, please share!

More Christmas music:

For your karaoke repertoire: