Christmas Celebrations in China

Christmas Celebrations in China

Christmas is hardly the main event in China – you’ll all know that Chinese New Year is the big one. Only a tiny percentage of China’s population are practicing Christians, and even though Christmas has its roots in the pagan festival of Midwinter, it is still seen as a predominately Christian festival.

However, even though Christmas is not an official holiday (apart from in Hong Kong), you will find more than a scattering of the festive spirit around China, particularly in the big cities. Younger people especially regard it as a fashionable day to celebrate.

Department stores really get into the seasonal groove, and Christmas trees (known as Trees of Light) are decorated with lanterns, paper chains and conventional festive decorations. It’s not uncommon to see Santa (called Dun Che Lao Ren, literally translated as ‘Christmas Old Man’) in large shopping centres.

In the home, some families choose to have a small Christmas tree and a few have Christmas lights strung up outside. Shopping sprees in the run up to the big day are popular and some Chinese celebrate on Christmas Eve by eating Christmas dinner with friends. Particularly in urban areas, some even exchange cards and small gifts. In some homes, children hang up muslin stockings in the hope that Santa will visit and leave gifts. Bowls of oranges and tangerines, symbolizing wealth and good fortune, are often displayed.

For full-on Christmas celebrations, head to the Western theme parks in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Tourist Board sponsors Winterfest, an annual Christmas wonderland with an authentic Christmas village, fireworks, aerial acrobatics and even an Ocean Santa!

With its colonial history and a larger Christian population, Christmas is a much more important holiday in Hong Kong, as well as in neighbouring Macao (once governed by Catholic Portugal). Cards, gifts and all the commercial trappings of a modern Christmas in the West are common, as are other traditions such as the office party. One of the more embarrassing memories of my years in Hong Kong was a Christmas party game that had everyone in hysterics at the expense of the Managing Director and myself – the only two westerners working there at the time. Provided with headphones and made to listen to the latest ‘Canto Pop’, we had to simultaneously sing along so that teams could guess the song title from our pathetic attempts at tuneful Cantonese. Perhaps tame compared to some of the office parties that will have been taking place across the UK in the last couple of weeks, but not an experience I will forget!

Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year to all our blog readers!


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