How to Keep the Holiday Spirit Alive…in Xi’an

Article by Ji

Growing up, Christmas was always my favorite time of year. I love the food, the trees, the lights, the drinks…everything about it. The holidays can be a very difficult time to be away from home. The locals seem to get excited about Christmas, but the celebrations completely miss the point. Throngs of people milling around South Street and the Bell Tower? People wearing masks? If you want that traditional holiday experience in Xi’an, you’re going to have to create it yourself. With resources hard to come by, maybe a helpful guide is in order…


Of course, the first thing we think about when it comes to the holidays is the food. There are a bunch of great options out there for a tasty holiday buffet. Most of the big hotels have set meals or buffets that provide goose, turkey, and all the other holiday foods that we love. The best I’ve had were the Wyndham, the Westin, and the Sofitel. There are also a number of restaurants that do really nice holiday dinners. One that I’ve been to many times over the years that has never failed to impress is Isola del Nord, a Xi’an institution. Every December, I make a point to stop by there for a glass or two of their delicious mulled wine. Hacker-Pschorr also does a nice German take on the holidays. (Editor’s Note: Check out the rest of the magazine to see the holiday meals on offer this month!)

Desserts are also an important part of the holiday season in many countries around the world, and while some of the classics can be hard to find in Xi’an, there are a few places to get your fix. C’est La Vie bakery usually carries some holiday-themed items like gingerbread houses or panettone. Starbucks also can be a good spot to get some holiday treats, and the annual addition of caramel apple cider and pumpkin spice lattes are a sure sign that the holidays are just around the corner. IKEA also has a very nice selection of Christmas cookies, and is worth the trip regardless just for the meatballs.

I have it on the highest authority (the bartender himself) that Take Five in Gaoxin will also have a holiday-themed event the few days surrounding Christmas, with some great seasonal cocktails. I can wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good cocktail, as Dennis is doing some amazing things over there, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for this.

While doing research for this article I learned of a Swedish traditional dish called Julbord. This consists of a variety of breads, meats, cheeses, and fish such as cured salmon, all things that can be found at Metro. While this is not a tradition I grew up with myself, I find myself thinking that maybe the Swedish are on to something here, as who doesn’t love a table stacked with meat, cheese, and bread?


In the end, there’s no wrong way to celebrate the holidays. Maybe it’s a hotel Christmas buffet, or maybe it’s some homemade mulled wine or holiday cocktails (see the great recipes in this issue). Maybe your new holiday tradition is sending baskets of meat and cheese to random Xianease writers, in which case you can get my address by sending an email to the editor. Here’s hoping that each and every one of you find a way to keep that holiday spirit alive in this faraway city that we all call home.

Ji is a singer, maker of Ejuice, and lover of all things drinkable. He can be reached at