Christmas is often associated with Christianity and especially Western tradition. However, Christmas is celebrated in the same way in many Asian countries, often with very unique traditions.
What is included in Asian Christmas? Visit Countryaah to learn more about the Christmas traditions you can get to experience at our travel destinations in Asia.
Christmas traditions in Asian countries
Kentucky Fried Chicken and Christmas Market in Japan
My own and quite unique Christmas traditions have gradually become established in Japan as well, even though only 1% of the country’s citizens are Christians.
Many places have Christmas markets that are very similar to their European role models. One of the largest is the Tokyo Christmas Market, which resembles an amazing amount of the German Christmas market. In fact, one of the sponsors of the event is The German Tourism Association.
At the Christmas market, you can shop for Christmas decorations, enjoy the colorful Christmas lights and drink even a cup of hot mulled wine. You can also enjoy the Christmas atmosphere in many major cities in Japan, whose shopping malls are decorated for Christmas with stunning Christmas decorations and lights.
Japanese Christmas is also associated with traditions that are unknown to Finns.
After all, Christmas Eve is a kind of Valentine’s Day in Japan, when couples go on dates and exchange gifts with each other. Gifts are rarely given to anyone other than a spouse or partner.
The Japanese Christmas meal is also very unique. The menu often includes chicken from the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” fast food chain. The Fastfood Christmas meal has been a Japanese tradition since 1974, when KFC launched a marketing campaign with the slogan “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii” or “Kentucky Christmas Table”.
The hustle and bustle of shopping malls and Christmas lights in China
If you visit one of the many major cities in China at Christmas, you are not guaranteed any doubt as to what celebration is coming. The city centers and shopping malls are dressed in their best Christmas decorations and Christmas lights so wonderfully that even the most cynical are sure to catch the Christmas mood.
Since most Chinese are not Christians, Christianity is not reflected in the traditions of Christmas celebrations.
While Christianity is not part of the Christmas celebration, the Chinese cherish their own Christmas traditions. One of the most special is related to apples. Namely, the Chinese pack apples for beautiful packages for Christmas and donate them to each other. Tradition has arisen from the fact that the Chinese word for apple sounds the same as the word for peace. In addition, the word “Ping’an Ye” (平安夜) for Christmas Eve also means a “quiet” or “peaceful” evening.
On Christmas Eve, the Chinese gather to spend the evening with family and friends, and the highlight of the evening is a delicious Christmas meal.
Midnight fair and festive meals in Vietnam
Only a small percentage of Vietnamese residents are Christians. An essential part of the Christmas tradition of Christian Vietnamese is attending midnight worship on Christmas Eve.
Many churches erect a Christmas crib decorated with life-size Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
After Christmas Eve service, Christian Vietnamese move home to enjoy a Christmas meal with their family. There is usually chicken soup on the Christmas table, but if the family can afford it, the chicken can be exchanged for a turkey. The dessert is the French chocolate cake Buche de Noël, or Christmas log. The French colonial conquerors brought this tradition to Vietnam in the 1880s.
At Christmas, Vietnamese also exchange gifts. Gifts are often edible, and a particularly popular gift is the Buche de Noël chocolate cake.
Christmas trees from chicken feathers in Indonesia
As in many other Asian countries, shopping malls in Indonesia are decorated for Christmas.
But the country is decorated with more than just shops. In the countryside, far from the commercial Christmas in the big cities, some Balinese families erect a Christmas tree made from chicken feathers.
There are several Christian villages in the southern parts of Bali where Christmas decorations belong to Christmas. However, the decorations are different than in Western countries. Balinese traditionally hang decorations made of bamboo and coconut leaves outside their homes. The ornament is called “penjor”.
Another Christmas-related tradition among Christian Indonesians is “Ngejot”. Ngejot is a ritual to show gratitude and wish good luck to loved ones and neighbors by donating food to them on Christmas Eve.
Gifts and fruit cake in Sri Lanka
Christmas is also celebrated in Sri Lanka. At dusk on the first day of December, you can hear a bang as people light Chinese bombs. This tradition marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Sri Lanka.
Like us, in Sri Lanka, Christmas includes a Christmas party that brings friends and family together to enjoy the Christmas table and exchange gifts.
Many places offer fruit cake, which is an integral part of Sri Lankan Christmas. The cake is somewhat reminiscent of a fruit cake eaten at Christmas in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, but the Sri Lankan version also uses some local ingredients.
The cake is traditionally glazed with marzipan, which is made from cashews instead of almonds.