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December 25, 2010

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A city full of Christmas spirit

SHANGHAI was enjoying plenty of festive cheer last night with Christmas Eve celebrations in full swing around the city.

People chose a number of different ways to celebrate from the quiet reflection of church services to the more boisterous carousing at bars and clubs.

Some bar managers, however, reported only moderate business with many foreigners having chosen to fly home for the holidays.

Shanghai airport officials said that more than 100,000 foreigners had left the city over the past week, 20 percent more than at the same time last year.

They also noted that locals had also been looking overseas for their Christmas treats, traveling to places such as Hong Kong and Taiwan for shopping and relaxation during the holiday period.

Despite the usual dash for last-minute presents, there were no transport problems reported.

A Metro official said there had been no need for extra train services as "passenger volume on the network was steady."

Churches were packed across the city, with some of the most popular masses held at the St Ignatius Cathedral in Xujiahui and Grace Church on Shaanxi Road N. in Jing'an District.

More than 2,000 churchgoers were at the Grace Church for its 6pm service, so many that some latecomers had to brave the cold to stand outside.

The church choir sang popular Christmas carols such as "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" as well as hymns by Chinese Christian composers. There were also instrumental performances on an electric pipe organ and songs and dances by children from the church's Sunday school.

Choir member Yan Li said Christmas was a special time and an opportunity for Christians to give thanks and think of those less fortunate.

Members of the congregation offered prayers for those who died in the tragic tower block blaze in November.

Australian Jenny Laing-Peach and her husband, Barry, have been in Shanghai for 10 years and have celebrated Christmas every year at St Francis Xavier Church.

After the service, their Christmas routine includes meeting up with their children for supper.

"We love Christmas in Shanghai, unlike Australia it is cold, but it is also wonderfully international and cosmopolitan," Jenny said.

"You can walk along the street and hear people saying Merry Christmas in different languages and different accents, there is this real sense of excitement."

For bars in Jing'an District it was business as usual rather than packed houses.

Popular expat watering hole Big Bamboo on Nanyang Road had a steady crowd of families and its near neighbors. The Spot and Malone's were also quieter than last year.

"It is a moderate night, a lot more people seem to have gone home this year but we are expecting a busy Christmas Day," said Big Bamboo's food and beverage manager Lachlan Dyer.

Many of the city's popular nightspots were getting into the Christmas spirit by holding special seasonal events.


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