At the market, a special stand has been set up to wrap apples in pretty plastic to give to your friends. Apparently the word for "Christmas Eve" in Chinese is "Ping An Ye," which sounds like the Chinese for apple: "ping guo." So it has become a recent fad to give apples for Christmas -- I've gotten 2 so far.
Let me tell you, it is truly a surreal experience to wander through a Chinese department store practically tripping over tacky Christmas decorations while Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you" tickles your eardrums. It made me laugh, and it was fun to know I'm not the only one celebrating the holiday this weekend. On the other hand, it is sad to see a culture borrow almost everything about Christmas, from consumerism to Mariah to artificial trees, but not borrow the one thing that is supremely worth celebrating. Americans may be slowly forgetting our awe and gratefulness for the Word made flesh, but many of the people here who so glibly offer their "Merry Christmas" wishes have never heard about Jesus in the first place.
Friends, "the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." So let's rejoice.
Merry Christmas from Qufu!