Traditions Around the World: How Asian Women Celebrate Christmas

Out of 195 countries in the world today, 160 of them celebrate the Christmas season. Though it is a widely-celebrated holiday worldwide, how it’s celebrated varies from one country to the next.

An Asian girl holding a pine cone.
Asian women have unique Christmas traditions — apple-giving, shopping sprees, and making star-shaped lanterns among many.

Countless unique Christmas traditions around the world exist, but we will focus on the ones practiced in Asia – specifically in China, Thailand, and the Philippines.

China: “Shengdan Jie Kuaile”

Only 2.53% of people in China are Christians, so not a lot of Chinese celebrate Christmas. Nonetheless, you will find giant Christmas trees, lights, and decor on the streets of major cities, especially in the mainland region.

Though it’s not considered a public holiday in the country, some people still go out of their way to celebrate it. That’s because Christmas in China has little to no relation to religion. It’s more of a commercial holiday like Valentine’s Day, where business establishments deck their space with decorations and have annual events such as year-end sales.

It’s widely popular amongst younger generations. It gives them an excuse to go shopping or ice skating. Others hang out with friends in cinemas and karaoke bars, while couples see it as a romantic day to express their love through gift-giving.

While it may not be a widely-celebrated holiday in the country, there are still some intriguing Christmas traditions practiced by locals. Here are a few fascinating ones:

  1. Christmas Feast

    Instead of a stuffed turkey as the centerpiece, China has its most-beloved eight treasure duck. It is a whole deboned duck stuffed with rice, ground chicken, diced ham, shrimp meat, bamboo shoots, scallops, chestnuts, and stir-fried mushrooms.

    You will also find other traditional Chinese dishes, including dumplings, steamed bao buns, char siu roast pork, spring rolls, stinky tofu, and more. Contrary to the name, the feast is not a celebration of Christmas per se. It’s more of a big get-together over dinner.

  2. Peace Apples

    Apples wrapped in colorful paper boxes with personalized cards are the most common gifts to give during Christmas in China.

    Here’s a fun fact: The Chinese word for apple (pingguo) sounds very similar to the Chinese word for Christmas Eve (ping’anye). This is why people in the country give their loved ones or friends apples (also known as peace apples) during Christmas.

  3. Santa Playing the Saxophone

    Not much of a tradition, but more of an interesting fact to know. Instead of hanging out with elves, running around with reindeers, and flying a sleigh (which most Chinese people think is unrealistic), Santa in China carries a saxophone and is known as “Sheng dan Lao Ren” or “Christmas Old Man.” He doesn’t need elves to help him wrap gifts. He has his sisters to do it for him.

    You’ll find him in large shopping malls and crowded streets, and he is usually accompanied by women in red costumes, popularly known as his sisters.

Thailand: “Suk-San Wan Krit-Maat”

An Asian girl covering her face.
It may not be a popular holiday in Thailand, but some locals still put in the effort to celebrate Christmas in their own unique ways.

Similar to China, Thailand is not a Christian country either. Only 1.17% of the nation’s population practice Christianity. Still, you’ll find traces of the holiday in most commercial areas.

Probably the main reason why most Thai people celebrate Christmas is because of their concept of Sanuk (enjoyment of life). Locals will take any excuse to party and celebrate.

But how do they celebrate the Christmas season in Thailand?

  1. Year-End Shopping Spree

    The Christmas season is probably the busiest week (or month) for shopping in Thailand. It’s a commercial holiday, after all. You’ll find retailer stores putting up sale signs outside their windows offering irresistible discounts and promotions.

  2. Songkran: Thai People’s Closest Version of Christmas

    Not a lot of festivities happen during December in Thailand. However, if you’re curious whether Thais celebrate a holiday that’s equivalent to western Christmas, they do. It’s called Songkran, or the Thai New Year. It’s a day where they give gifts and do good deeds for others.

The Philippines: “Maligayang Pasko”

The Philippines is a predominantly Christian country. About 92.5% of the nation’s population practice Christianity, and almost every Filipino celebrates Christmas.

However, unlike western countries where Santa Claus is the poster child of the holiday, Christmas in the Philippines is centered around Jesus. You’ll find nativity scenes in most Filipino households, malls, parks, and streets that display the birth of Christ.

Here’s an interesting fact: The Philippines has one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world, with most families setting up their decorations as soon as “-ber” months start. The season officially begins once business establishments start playing songs by Jose Mari Chan, the Philippines’ King of Christmas Carols.

Being one of the biggest and most-anticipated holidays of the year, Filipinos have a few interesting Christmas traditions. Below are some of them:

  1. Simbang Gabi

    Starting December 16 of every year, a series of Catholic Masses are held for nine straight days. Most believe that whoever completes all nine days can make any wish, and it will come true.

  2. Making Parol with Family

    It’s not a Filipino Christmas unless you find brightly-colored parols everywhere, it’s a star-shaped Christmas lantern made from bamboo sticks and colored paper. According to elders, these ornaments signify peace and goodwill.

    It’s a tradition in most Filipino households to make these ornaments with family. For busy households, however, they can easily buy these lanterns everywhere.

  3. Noche Buena

    While other countries eat Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas Night, Filipinos wake up at midnight to greet Christmas Day with a large feast called Noche Buena.

Christmas is different around the world, especially in Asia. Some countries view it as a purely commercial holiday, while others view it as a sacred day to commemorate the birth of Christ.

Whether you know someone from Asia or not, it’s nice to know some of these interesting Asian Christmas traditions. You’ll never know when it might come in handy.

Spend Your Holidays in Asia

To get a better grasp at how other cultures celebrate the Yuletide season, you could travel anywhere in Asia and experience it for yourself. Instead of spending Christmas alone this year, book a singles tour and explore a new country while meeting beautiful single Asian women.

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