China falls for Christmas — at least in its stores

(December 23, 2007, Reuters, by Simon Rabinovitch)

Bedecked in trees and bunting, with carols piped through their speakers, Chinese malls are thronged by shoppers at Christmas and look much like ones anywhere else in the world. The difference lies just below the surface. Wang Lijun knows her Santa Claus hat and coat are supposed to lure customers to the buffet house in the Beijing mall where she works but beyond that she is confused. “The boss makes us wear these,” the restaurant hostess, 25, said. “I have no idea what they mean.” But the hat and coat do the trick. Business is brisk in the restaurant behind Wang as waiters clad in similar Santa Claus outfits scurry among the tables, dodging the poinsettia and fake gifts scattered about the floor.

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