10 Ways to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

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1) Skating on Houhai Lake
Celebrate the holidays Beijing-style by making Houhai your personal rink. Traditionalists can rent a pair of skates for a spin on the ice, but for a bit of adventure, try an ice unicycle or the two-seater sedans that require either a bit of pushing with ski poles or a willing parent with a strong back. Prices from RMB 15. Be sure to hang on to your deposit slip, as you won’t get your refund without it. As with all sports, exercise common sense – stay away from the roped-off sections, where the ice is less solid. Amani Zhang

2) Baubles in Beijing
Here are a few of our favorite stockists around town:
Liangma Flower Market. The second floor has been transformed into a wonderland of Christmas decorations and artificial trees. Accessorize your tree with pretty lights (10m strand for RMB 25), tinsel (RMB 1-8) and jewel-colored ornaments (box of 24 for RMB 35). Downstairs, you’ll find ribbon (23m for RMB 100), cards (RMB 1) and gift-wrapping paper (2m sheet for RMB 8).
IKEA. The grand dame of home furnishings also has a great selection of Christmas decorations, cards and wrapping paper. You’ll find pretty glass balls for the tree (6 pack/RMB 19.90) and plain handmade wreaths (RMB 99) that you can decorate
as you fancy.  Angela Snowball

3) Turkey Feast
Christmas isn’t Christmas without a giant turkey. But then you have to add the cranberry sauce, the stuffing, the sides – it’s all too much! Take the hassle out of your Christmas and get Chef Too (6591 8676) to do all the cooking for you. From RMB 1,280, you will get a turkey, every side dish imaginable (including cranberry sauce, of course) and a range of yummy desserts. It doesn’t get easier than that! Imogen Kandel      

4) Decorate Chinese-style with paper-cuttings
The Chinese first started decorating windows with red paper-cuttings in anticipation of Spring Festival, but nowadays, cuttings of all colors and shapes go up around January 1. With parental supervision, elementary school-aged kids can take up a pair of scissors and start experimenting. For formal instruction, check out the class at China Culture Center (see Events p9). Dexterous teens and parents can attempt knife-carved paper-cutouts, which are technically challenging and require a type of thin, fragile paper called xuan zhi (宣纸), a small, sharp knife, and a wax board to keep your cuts clean. Pick up these tools on the third floor of Tianle Toy Market. AZ

5) Go meshugena on Hanukkah
When Hanukkah begins on Friday, December 11, nosh on traditional Jewish foods like potato latkes and gelt (chocolate coins) and light a menorah at Chabad House. Be a mensch and invite your neighbors for a game of dreidel, and look out for the Hanukah party on December 16 from 4.30-6pm at Dini’s – located at Kings Garden Villa F/1. JP

6) French bakeries do it better
Comptoirs de France have come to the rescue, offering beautiful and delectable Christmas treats that are as good (if not better) than anything you’d find back home. Check out their wide range of gingerbread houses, Italian panettone, Yule logs, and the piece de resistance – their 70cm, 3kg chocolate Santas. Several locations around town: see directories for listings. IK


7) Christmas movie marathon
Traditionalists will gravitate toward classics like Miracle on 34th Street and It’s A Wonderful Life. But if the family’s in the mood for something different, here’s a list of flicks with minimal sap. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989): A dysfunctional family holiday that delivers madcap antics along with sentiment. Spirited Away (2001): Alice in Wonderland set in a Japanese bathhouse. A young girl stumbles upon a world of shape-shifting spirits, all created by famed animator Hayao Miyazaki. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Halloween ain’t over yet in Tim Burton’s twisted vision of the holiday – candy for anyone drawn to the subversive. Love Actually (2003): This romantic comedy set in a Yuletide London is surprisingly disarming, thanks to a star cast and a peppy soundtrack. Michelle Tsai

8) Old clothes towards a good cause
What to do with clothes that the kids have outgrown? Donate them to the many orphanages in and around Beijing. To donate directly, check out China Care Foundation, the New Hope Foundation, or Morning Tears, a non-profit for kids whose parents are in prison. Even better, organize a clothing drive with local families and call for a pickup. MT

9) Holiday DVDs for little ones

School’s out and the kids are antsy. Pop in these age-appropriate movies, which you might just enjoy yourself. Home Alone (1990): What 8-year-old doesn’t want to booby trap his house and throw burglars down the stairs while the parents are away? Just remember to hide the aftershave. The Polar Express (2004): A beautifully animated North Pole adventure that’s perfect for kids who are just about to outgrow Santa. The Santa Clause (1994): Tim Allen agrees to be the next man in red after he accidentally kills Santa Claus. A straightforward family comedy. Elf (2003): Will Ferrell, raised by elves, heads to cheerless New York City to search for his dad. Irresistible silliness ensues. MT

10) It isn’t the Alps, but it’s close
Beijing may not be brimming over with Swiss-inspired chalets, but you can definitely cram some decent ski sessions into your holiday itinerary. Most winter sports-savvy Beijingers head to Shijinglong Ski Resort and Nanshan Ski Village. Shijinglong hosts Beijing’s longest trails and has several runs that cater to all levels. Nanshan, in addition to ten well-maintained ski trails, also includes a snowboard park (Nanshan Mellow Park) that comes equipped with snowboarders’ delights such as halfpipes and kickers.  See Directory for details. IK

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