The celebration of Christmas is gradually becoming widespread in China as more and more families are converted to Christianity.
Sheng Dan Jien -- literally, Holy Birth Festival -- is the Chinese name for Christmas. Private homes are decorated with large white posters inscribed with Chinese characters meaning Peace, Good Will, etc. The Christmas tree is also popular: symbolically called the Tree of Light, it is usually made of papier mache and, trimmed with paper flowers and ornaments, it is not artificially lighted.
Gifts are exchanged within family circles and there are "surprises" for the children: American lead pencils, picture books and even cast-off Christmas cards are exceedingly popular.
Early mass on Christmas morning is the focal point of the religious observances. Lantern-lit processions enter dark churches before dawn and, after mass, wend their way home, singing Chinese translations adapted to the original melodies of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," "Silent Night," and other traditional Christmas carols.