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It's easy to go to Hamburg for Christmas
By Victoria Fei

A German-style mini market outside Shanghai’s Hamburg House is just one way to mark the Western holiday as Chinese people are increasingly into the festivities. Victoria Fei gets the merry story.

It’s getting easier to have a European-style Christmas in Shanghai. Several Christmas markets have appeared in town, and the exotic flavors have become a big attraction.

A German-style mini Christmas market will be open on December 24 and 25 in a plaza outside the Hamburg House on Baotun Road in Huangpu District. Hamburg has a sister-city relationship with Shanghai.

Located at the former Expo site in Puxi, the free, mini Christmas market will provide traditional German festive goods, holiday gifts and snacks, as well as a children’s choir performance.

“It is our first time to have a Christmas market here. The mini market is a test, trying to see how popular this Western tradition is among people in Shanghai,” says Hans-Joerg Schmidt-Trenz, chief representative of the Hamburg Liaison Office Shanghai. “With German flavor, it’s not as commercial as the other ones, and it’s just to showcase German culture and festival style.”

The mini market was launched on December 4 with a lighting ceremony. It was opened simultaneously with the 15 Christmas markets in Hamburg. Organizers say the one in Shanghai “is a gift of Santa from Hamburg,” and bears the same Hamburg market logo.

Here, one can find almost all things Christmas from Germany: an eye-catching Hamburg Christmas arch, a Christmas tree 6 meters tall, lighting, sweet wine, hot sausages, cookies and Christmas gingerbread men and dolls.

People can also leave their messages of Christmas wishes on the wall.

There is a Santa giving out gifts for children. Parents, meanwhile, can also make handicrafts with new German friends.

“The event showcases traditional German culture, specialties and handicrafts. We have gotten positive feedback from so many people,” Schmidt-Trenz says.

“Although the first opening days were held when the air quality was bad in Shanghai and the area is still under development, people still have had a huge interest in participating in it,” he adds.

Around 60 to 70 percent of the visitors were Chinese.

“I like something less commercial. While shopping for Christmas, the elements of German culture enrich the experience,” says Wan Yin, a Chinese visitor. “I’m also interested in German mulled wine, cakes, bread, sweets and sausages offered at the scene.”

Social networks such as weibo and wechat also have played an important role in promoting Christmas events.

Next year, the organizer says, the mini Christmas market will be larger in scale, with more booths and goods.

Lawrence Lo, a noted food and wine critic and social media blogger who hails from Hong Kong and has resided in Shanghai since 2002, was a co-organizer of the Christmas market at 1933 Old Millfun on December 14 and 15.

He says most of the vendors were foreigners and they brought merchandise they had made to sell.

Visitors were able to buy not only coffee, wine and organic farm foods such as vegetables and fruit, but also handmade chocolate, DIY accessories and braided fabric.

It also gave local residents a chance to practice their English and make some foreign friends.

“Year after year, I think Shanghai’s Christmas spirit becomes more and more remarkable, partly because there are more foreigners living and working here. Local expats also want to get more involved with the community to increase cross-cultural understanding,” Lo explains.

“Shanghai is the most cosmopolitan city in China, so naturally, locals are familiar with foreign festivals, and they are also more curious to know the outside world and different cultures than people from other parts of China. As such, this year, Christmas markets seem to happen every weekend right up until Christmas,” he adds.

Lo organizes food and wine events, as well as cooking classes, almost every weekend. For the Christmas market, he used his own weibo and wechat accounts to encourage friends and followers to come and experience it.

“It enables the local Chinese community to experience foreign culture and taste food and beverages from around the world. Independent vendors can also sell their creative jewelry and clothes,” Lo says.

“I’m very happy about the turnout, especially on Saturday, as the 1933 Old Millfun becomes more and more popular with locals, especially with the younger generation.”

Mini Christmas Market at Hamburg House

Date: December 24-25, 5-10pm

Address: 399 Baotun Rd

Admission: Free

East Dock Shanghai Christmas Market

Near the Shanghai East Dock, the annual Shanghai Christmas Market is open until January 5. Visitors can wander around 70 stands to buy Christmas decorations and sample delicious food.

The newly renovated north riverside area will feature dozens of the city’s vendors.

Organizers are planning a host of daily and evening activities and performances.

Date: Through January 5

Address: 32 Qinhuangdao Rd

Admission: 15 yuan (10am-5pm); 30 yuan (5-9pm); Christmas Eve (December 24, 5pm-12am) 100 yuan; New Year’s Eve (December 31, 5pm-1am) 80 yuan.

How to get there: Metro Line 4 Yangshupu Road Station

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