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Christmas in China

  • Celebrated: Dec. 1 to Jan. 6

Christmas is not a public holiday in China or Taiwan because the majority of Chinese people are not Christian 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.

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. These cities are generally along or near China's eastern coastline stretching from Harbin to Macau. It is in these areas where a significant percentage of people (perhaps more than 10 percent) are nominally Christian.

However, the majority of Chinese live in smaller cities and countryside areas in China's interior and in the western half of the country. In these places, especially in the western provinces such as Chengdu, Gansu and Tibet, there are relatively fewer Christians and the people have had less contact with foreigners. In inland areas where a lot of Muslims live, such as Ningxia and Xinjiang, Christmas is publicly celebrated very little.

In Hong Kong and Macau

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.

What the Chinese Do at Christmas

Most Chinese people celebrate Christmas as a happy occasion for get-togethers of friends, relatives, and couples, without any religious attachment. It is a good time to celebrate with presents, good food and entertainment. However, Christians are likely to celebrate the day religiously.

It depends on education, belief, and location whether Chinese people realize that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Relatively few Chinese are Christians or attach a religious significance to the festivities. However, you'll see many of the same decorations up: Christmas wreaths, Merry Christmas signs, colorful lights, and the same sorts of ornaments. Most of these decorations bought in the West are made in China anyway!

Christians in China celebrate by going to special church services. 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 sounds like the word peace in Mandarin, so people eat apples.

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” helps to make the scene complete.

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.

Christmas in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the best places in the world to go for a festive Christmas atmosphere. Having a two day public holiday for relaxation and recreation helps make the atmosphere so. The American CNN television network named the Hong Kong WinterFest as one of the Top 10 places to spend Christmas in the whole world. Churches and Christians take Christmas seriously and there are big religious events, carol singing, and special performances. Hong Kong is known for fantastic Christmas displays, fine food, and Christmas shopping.

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. Groups of impromtu Christmas carolers and church groups go out to bring cheer with their guitars and greetings to the streets at night. Buildings are lit up with Christmas decorations for Hong Kong's Symphony of Lights.

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.

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

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 Taiwan

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 big hotels and Western restaurants offer Christmas dinner, and the malls and shopping centers are dressed up in holiday decorations to entertain the Taiwanese during their romantic celebration.