Christmas in China

  • Celebrated: Dec. 1 to Jan. 6
  • Location: China
Christmas in Guangzhou

Christmas is not a public holiday in China because China doesn't have much Christian cultural influence, and most Chinese people are not Christian (only 1% officially), though it is a public holiday in Macau and Hong Kong. However, along the coast and in the big internationally-influenced cities, it has been a big commercial success and a newly adopted festive tradition. The holiday has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years, though there are regional differences and most families hardly celebrate the holiday at all.

How to Say "Merry Christmas" in Chinese

圣诞快乐 Shèngdàn kuàilè /shnng-dan kwhy-ler/ 'Holy-birth happy'

Christmas from East to West China

In the Mainland

In the Mainland, in recent years, Christmas has become more and more popular and is celebrated with interest in large cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou where a large number of expats live, and Western influence in greater. These cities are generally along or near China's east coast. There are more Christians there (perhaps 5%).

However, in smaller cities and countryside areas in China's interior there are far fewer Christians and the people have had less contact with foreigners, so Christmas is sometimes a foreign mystery, especially for the older generations.

The further west in China the less Christmas is celebrated, with the exception of big cities like Chengdu and Chongqing. In the far west where a lot of Muslims and more devout Buddhists live, such as in Xinjiang and Tibet, Christmas is publicly celebrated very little.

In Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan

It is a two day public holiday in Hong Kong and Macau, due to the British and Portuguese influence.

In Hong Kong Christmas Day (December 25) and Boxing Day (December 26) are both official public holidays. Banks are closed on these days. Boxing Day is a British tradition. It is a day for shopping for after-holiday sales and for employers to give gifts to employees.

In Macau Christmas Eve (December 24) and Christmas Day are official public holidays. Both days and December 26 as well are bank holidays.

In Taiwan Christmas is generally celebrated more than in Mainland China, but less than in HK and Macau. See below.

What the Chinese Do at Christmas

Christmas in Hong Kong

Most Chinese people who celebrate Christmas do so as a happy occasion for get-togethers of friends, relatives, and couples, without any religious attachment, while the Christians generally celebrate the day religiously, sometimes more so than in the West. Few Chinese people realize that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ or attach a religious significance to the festivities.

The Secular Chinese Christmas

The commercial Christmas has become a major annual event in the major cities in China. On the streets and in department stores, there are Christmas trees, lights and decorations. You'll hear Christmas music playing from the end of November. Christmas carols can be heard over the noise of the crowds shopping for the Christmas season sales and promotions. A Chinese “Father Christmas” (圣诞老人 Shèngdàn Lǎorén /shnng-dan laoww-rnn/) helps to make the scene complete.

You'll see many of the same decorations up: Christmas wreaths, Merry Christmas banners, colorful lights, and the same sorts of ornaments. Most of these decorations bought in the West are made in China anyway!

For young people, it's a chance to get together with friends and have Christmas parties. These might be held at a friend's house, McDonald's, karaoke cafe, restaurant, or bar. There is a festive atmosphere, and people enjoy the decorations and unusual music.

The Christian Chinese Christmas

Many of China's Christians celebrate Christmas as the top event of the year, outranking even Chinese New Year, preparing songs and activities weeks before.

Christians in China celebrate by going to special church services, which are typically packed to capacity. On Christmas Eve, there are choral performances, and the congregation puts on dance and drama performances. It is called ‘Peaceful Evening' (Ping'an Ye 平安夜 from the translation of the carol "Silent Night").

An unusual apple eating tradition has evolved in the country. The word apple (苹果 píngguǒ /ping-gwor/) sounds like the word "peace" in Mandarin, so people eat apples.

Carol singing in the streets is rarely seen, though it's popular in Christian's houses, where the karaoke machine, ever popular in China, may be employed.

Christmas in Hong Kong

Christmas, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the best places in the world to go for a festive Christmas atmosphere, with its two-day public holiday. The American CNN television network named the Hong Kong WinterFest as one of the Top 10 places to spend Christmas in the whole world. Hong Kong is known for fantastic Christmas displays, fine food, and Christmas shopping.

Displays

The 1881 Heritage, Harbour City Mall, Langham Place, Elements Mall and the IFC Mall put up dazzling, intricate and large displays. The Hong Kong Tourism Board puts on a free annual Christmas treat for the tourists at Statue Square that has included an epic tree backlit by skyscrapers with their own syncopating and colorful decorations.

Events

  • Disneyland hosts Christmas-themed amusement and entertainment starting from Thanksgiving and ending after New Year's Day.
  • The Hong Kong Ballet stages the Nutcracker, and its a delight for those who enjoy fine opera and ballet.
  • The Hong Kong Philharmonic performs selections of classic Christmas pieces.
  • Buildings are lit up with Christmas decorations for Hong Kong's Symphony of Lights.
  • Churches and Christians take Christmas seriously and there are big religious events, carol singing, and special performances. Groups of impromtu Christmas carolers and church groups go out to bring cheer with their guitars and greetings to the streets at night.

Christmas Meals

Then there is the fine food to enjoy. Hong Kong is known for having more good restaurants than perhaps any other similarly-sized location in Asia (as ranked by Michelin and other such ratings bodies). The world-class 4-star and 5-star hotels in Hong Kong serve special Christmas dinners from about the 22nd of December until Christmas Day. more>>

Christmas in Beijing

Christmas in Beijing is celebrated with keen interest by some of Beijing's younger generation. Usually it is celebrated as a happy occasion for social get-togethers and giving presents. However, most people work on Christmas day unless it happens to fall on a weekend. Christmas in Beijing is mainly commercial; it is a busy shopping season. Some of the major hotels have special Christmas dinners, and people can also be reminded of the original meaning of Christmas at churches in Beijing. more>>

Christmas in Shanghai

Shanghai is a center for world trade and a place where East meets West. In a modern, highly-developed city, smart shopkeepers don't lose any opportunity to sell their products. Most shops in the downtown area decorate their shops to attract visitors in the holiday period. Christmas carols are heard everywhere. more>>

Christmas in Guangzhou

tianhecheng

It sometimes seems that Christmas is more popular than Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) in Guangzhou, especially to the young people. There are three things they love to do: have Christmas parties, go shopping, and enjoy Christmas dinner. Why not go Christmas shopping in Guangzhou? more>>

Christmas in Guilin

We at China Highlights are based in Guilin, one of those smaller cities, where there are fewer Christians and Christmas is less celebrated. Famous for its karst landscape, Guilin draws many foreign and domestic tourists, but very few in the winter and at Christmas time. 

The biggest Christmas event in Guilin is the Christmas Eve Performance Night at the church on Zhongshan Middle Road, where for three hours songs, dances, and skits are perfomed on stage by local Christians. The church is always packed to bursting then, so get there well before 7pm to get a seat.

The decorations, mostly in large shops and restaurants, are less grand than in bigger cities, and may linger until replaced by the more lavish Chinese New Year displays. Christmas music is played there — almost always the same three Chinese songs (see below), though some English carols may be broadcast. Almost nowhere else is decorated, so Christmas can feel rather dreary and forgotten to a Westerner walking the streets.

Christmas meals recognizable by Westerners are only available in the largest Western chain hotels, i.e. the Shangri-La and Sheraton, and Western-run restaurants in Yangshuo. Other restaurants and hotels put on events on Christmas Eve, with raffles and staff dressed up, mainly for children.

Christmas in Taiwan

Christmas is an unofficial holiday in Taiwan, but only because it coincides with Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of Taiwan's constitution in 1947. While its 5% Christian population celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in churches and homes across the island, the majority enjoy the decorations and displays in shops, and general commercialism.

The big hotels and Western restaurants offer Christmas dinner, and the malls and shopping centers are dressed up in holiday decorations to entertain Taiwanese shoppers.

The Taiwanese have evolved their own peculiar Christmas traditions, isolated in the Pacific and subjected to cultural currents from the West and East. In Taiwan, celebrating Christmas isn't really so much an affair for parents and their children, but its for romantic couples. It is sort of like a Western Valentine's Day holiday.

Couples meet and spend the day together. Then they go out for dinner in the evening. Singles meet up with their friends, and they go out for a good time. Then after dinner, people want to go and watch a movie. How the collision of cultural winds produced this social custom is at yet not understood by scientists.

The Top Three Chinese Christmas Songs

Apart from (classic) English carols and pop songs the Chinese songs you are most likely to hear playing are the Chinese versions (to the same tunes) of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", "Silent Night", and "Jingle Bells".

Women Zhu Ni Shengdan Kuaile — 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas'

我们祝你圣诞快乐

我们祝你圣诞快乐

我们祝你圣诞快乐

祝你新年快乐


把新讯带到

每一个角落

把新年的新讯

带给你们和我

Wǒmen zhù nǐ shèngdàn kuàilè

wǒmen zhù nǐ shèngdàn kuàilè

wǒmen zhù nǐ shèngdàn kuàilè

Zhù nǐ xīnnián kuàilè


Bǎ xīn xùn dài dào 

Měi yīgè jiǎoluò

Bǎ xīnnián de xīn xùn 

Dài gěi nǐmen hé wǒ

We wish you a merry Christmas

We wish you a merry Christmas

We wish you a merry Christmas

Wishing you a happy New Year


Take the news 

To every corner

Give the New Year news 

To you and me

Or...

把星星带到

每一个角落

把新年的心绪

带给你们和我

Bǎ xīngxīng dài dào

Měi yīgè jiǎoluò

Bǎ xīnnián de xīn xù

Dài gěi nǐmen hé wǒ

Take stars

To every corner

Take the New Year new mood

To you and me

Ping'an Ye — 'Silent Night'

平安夜 圣善夜

万暗中 光华射

照着圣母也

照着圣婴

多少慈祥也

多少天真

静享天赐安眠

静享天赐安眠


平安夜 圣善夜

牧羊人 在旷野

忽然看见了

天上光华

听见天军唱

哈利路亚

救主今夜降生

救主今夜降生


平安夜 圣善夜

神子爱 光皎洁

救赎宏恩的

黎明来到

圣容发出来

荣光普照

耶稣我主降生

耶稣我主降生

Píng'ān yè shèngshàn yè

Wàn àn zhōng guānghuá shè

Zhàozhe shèngmǔ yě

zhàozhe shèng yīng

Duōshǎo cíxiáng yě

duōshǎo tiānzhēn

Jìng xiǎng tiāncì ānmián

Jìng xiǎng tiāncì ānmián


Píng'ān yè shèngshàn yè

Mùyáng rén zài kuàngyě

Hūrán kànjiànle

tiānshàng guānghuá

Tīngjiàn tiān jūn chàng

hālìlùyà

jiù zhǔ jīnyè jiàngshēng

jiù zhǔ jīnyè jiàngshēng


Píng'ān yè shèngshàn yè

Shénzi ài guāng jiǎojié

Jiùshú hóng ēn di

límíng lái dào

Shèng róng fà chūlái

róngguāng pǔzhào

Yēsū wǒ Zhǔ jiàngshēng

Yēsū wǒ Zhǔ jiàngshēng

Peaceful night holy night

In the calm glory shone

On the holy mother and

on the holy child

So much mercy and

so much heavenly truth

Quietly enjoys heavenly rest

Quietly enjoys heavenly rest


Peaceful night holy night

Shepherds in the wilderness

Suddenly saw

heavenly glory

Heard the heavenly host sing

hallelujah

The Savior tonight is born

The Savior tonight is born


Peaceful night holy night

God's Son love's light shines

Redeeming grace's

dawn has come

The holy face emanates

glory shining

Jesus my Lord is born

Jesus my Lord is born

Dingding Dang — “Jingle Bells”

穿过大风雪

我们坐在雪橇上

飞奔过田野

我们欢笑又歌唱

马儿铃声响

令人心欢畅

我们今夜滑雪

真快乐

把滑雪歌儿唱


叮叮当叮叮当

铃儿响叮当

我们今夜多快乐

坐在雪橇上

叮叮当叮叮

当铃儿响叮当

我们今夜多快乐

坐在雪橇上

Chuānguo dà fēng xuě

Wǒmen zuò zài xuěqiāo shàng

Fēi bēnguò tiányě

Wǒmen huānxiào yòu gēchàng

Mǎ'er língshēng xiǎng

Lìng rénxīn huānchàng

Wǒmen jīnyè huáxuě

Zhēn kuàilè

Bǎ huáxuě gē'er chàng


Dīngdīng dāng dīngdīng dāng

Líng'er xiǎng dīngdāng

Wǒmen jīnyè duō kuàilè

Zuò zài xuěqiāo shàng

Dīngdīng dāng dīngdīng dāng

Líng'er xiǎng dīngdāng

Wǒmen jīnyè duō kuàilè

Zuò zài xuěqiāo shàng

Through the wind and snow

We ride on a sleigh

Flying over the fields

We all laugh and sing

Horse's bells ringing

Makes our hearts joyful

Tonight we're sleighing

so happily

singing a sleighing song


Ding-a-ling ding-a-ling

Bells ring ding-a-ling

Tonight we are so happy

Riding on a sleigh

Ding-a-ling ding-a-ling

Bells ring ding-ling

We tonight are so happy

Riding on a sleigh