How Do People Around Asia Celebrate Christmas?
Writer: Farah Karim
Christmas is a global celebration but interestingly, people in different countries celebrate Christmas in their own unique way. In the West, it’s normal to have a white Christmas, presents under Christmas tree and stockings hanging above the fireplace — whereas Asians do it is a bit differently.
Here are 5 Asian countries and how each of them celebrate the Yuletide festivity:
Observed as a public holiday, Christmas is a time of big sales, extravagant mall displays and around one month of nothing but Christmas jingles playing wherever you go. With every festivity, the one thing that people look forward are the decorations in shopping malls. Places such as One Utama Shopping Centre, Suria KLCC, the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur are some shopping centres that take part in the tradition.
With our love for shopping, it’s no surprise that large shopping centres try to garner as much traffic as possible during this festive season. The Christmas sales are absolutely crazy – with discounts as high as 80%!
Source: One Utama Shopping Centre Official Facebook Page
With so many expats in the country, it’s expected that Christmas would be widely celebrated. Our neighbours have a similar way of celebrating like us but instead of each individual mall coming up with their own Christmas decorations, they decorate the whole of Orchard Road with a major shopping belt that showcases over 5000 fashion and lifestyle retail stores. For this holiday season, Orchard Road put up a show-stopping Disney theme featuring everyone’s favourite characters from Mickey Mouse & Friends, Toy Story, Frozen and the Disney Princesses franchise! This street-length light show stretches for about 3 kilometres down from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura.
On top of that, there are also Christmas Fairs and Christmas Markets if you like something less flashy and evokes the Christmas spirit.
Source: Orchard Road Official Website
Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is one that is celebrated by few with the total number of Christians at 2.3% of the total population. With a population of over 1 billion, there are around 25 million Christians in India with the highest number of Christians in Mumbai. Christmas in India is more of a family celebration rather than extravagant. The whole family will walk to midnight mass, followed by a feast of delicacies such as curries and the giving and receiving of presents. Christians in Mumbai use many Christmas traditions from Goa (a small Indian state with 26% of the population being Christians) which includes star lanterns and manger scenes.
The cool thing is that instead of having a traditional Christmas tree, a banana or mango tree is decorated! The Indians truly make it their own and sometimes they use mango leaves instead of the traditional Christmas wreaths to decorate their homes.
Source: Dinodia Photo/Getty Images
Christmas is much less of a family holiday compared to the bigger traditional holidays such as the Seollal (Korean New Year) or Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving). But that doesn’t mean they don’t celebrate at all! It’s more of a couple orientated holiday, similar to Valentine’s Day. According to Simon and Martina Stawski, two vloggers and previously teachers in Bucheon, “Big corporate stores do get into Christmas spirit, but more for commercial than religious reasons. It’s more of a couple’s holiday, akin to Valentine’s Day, and not a family holiday”.
Even in Korea the holiday menu differs a bit from the West. It features foods like bulgogi (barbecued beef), sweet potato noodles and kimchi; foods that are similar to that of Korean tastes.
Christmas songs, on the other hand, often don’t talk about Saint Nick or Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Released by K-Pop artists and loved by the younger generation, songs released during the holiday season emphasise on the ‘special someone’ to spend time with such as TWICE’s Merry & Happy.
You know how Christmas dinner always includes a large bird like Turkey or Geese? Instead of a having a nice roasted turkey in the middle of your dinner table, imagine a 12-piece bucket in the middle of that table. That’s it. That’s Christmas in Japan. Beginning with an advertising campaign by KFC in 1974 called “Kentucky for Christmas!”, this has popularised the serving of KFC during this festive season. Traditional foods eaten during Christmas such as Christmas pudding (similar to a fruit cake) is replaced by a strawberry sponge cake. Similar to that of Korea, Christmas is seen as a couple’s day rather than a family-oriented one.
If that wasn’t convincing enough, here’s an actual advertisement that aired in Japan.
What about you? How do you spend your Christmas? Do you defy Christmas traditions by eating KFC instead of a turkey? Let us know in the comments below!