It’s Christmas time – and Christmas Eve is just as important as Christmas Day itself. But in Asia, Christmas is often seen as more of a Caucasian holiday, as Christianity was brought in during colonial times. However, Christmas celebrations have been integrated with modern societies in Asia, and they are celebrated differently in different countries.
Here are some unique Christmas celebrations from all around Asia:
The land of the rising sun is known to have crazy and bizarre trends. Christmas, however, is marketed as a romantic holiday for couples, especially on Christmas Eve. LED lights are festooned over streets, illuminating the nights away. Another unique Japanese Christmas tradition is that many locals have their Christmas dinners at KFC – a trend that started back in the 70s.
However, Christmas Day is not a public holiday in Japan – unlike for us in Malaysia.
Fun fact: To get a KFC Christmas bucket, orders have to be placed months in advance. Not only that, you might be able to get yourself a premium roast chicken, which costs 5,900 Yen (Approx. RM261) if you order in advance.
Christmas Day is a public holiday in South Korea, where 30% of the population are Christians. Most Korean Christians would attend church sermons and indulge in caroling. Decorations include large displays in department stores; while Seoul holds a spectacular light show. The lights are visible across the city center, especially on the Han River bridges.
Even theme parks like Everland & Lotte World would have Christmas decorations and attractions for families to enjoy their Christmas family time.
Fun fact: In South Korea, Santa Claus would be either wearing red or blue costumes.😲
China (Including Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan)
Christmas celebrations in China only started decades ago. It’s not widely celebrated on the mainland, except by those who reside in coastal cities such as Shanghai or Shenzhen. However, Christmas is widely celebrated in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
Department stores in Chinese metropolises would, nevertheless, decorate themselves extravagantly with lights and Christmas trees. Just like in Japan, Christmas is also a romantic time for couples.
Fun fact: Apples are common gifts for Christmas as the Chinese character for apple is 苹果 Ping Guo which is a homonym of Christmas Eve 平安夜 Ping An Ye. And Santa Claus is known as 圣诞老人 sheng dan lao ren which literally means old Christmas man.
The most extravagant Christmas celebrations in Southeast Asia are found in the Philippines. Christmas decorations are usually up and ready by September. Not only that, Christmas celebrations would start on December 16th! That’s way too early!
Being a predominantly Christian nation, Christmas is a very important holiday for Filipinos. Christmas traditions are a mixture of Western and native Filipino customs. They even have their own Christmas rituals – the ‘parol,’ which is a bamboo pole or frame with a lighted star lantern attached. The parol represents the star that guided the three wise men. It’s made of bamboo strips and colourful Japanese paper or cellophane paper.
Fun fact: In the Philippines, many Filipinos would attend early masses which are called ”Simbang Gabi’ and there are nine of them in total.
Who knew Christmas would be so different in Asia?? Which Asian nation’s Christmas is the most unusual to you?