Do you know how Asian spend their Christmas? We don’t exactly have turkey, candles lit and eggnog like in the Western countries, but we do appreciate and celebrate Christmas in compassion with others. Let’s walk across Asia to see exactly how people celebrate Christmas. Our first stop is in Thailand. Christmas is not widely celebrated in Thailand, and the 25th December is just a normal working day. While the religious meaning of Christmas might not be well-known to most Thai people, they know it’s a festivity and are happy to celebrate together with the important month of the king’s birthday. In some places, elephants are dressed up in Santa Claus costumes and perform at local schools, distribute presents with their trunks. Christmas decorations are most impressive at Bangkok Central World, while carols and led lights to fill other tourist sites.
Christmas in Bangkok
Vietnam people, especially the youth, celebrate the Christmas Eve with excitement. In Ho Chi Minh City, the city center is quite crowded on Christmas Eve as people flock at the Nguyen Hue avenue to enjoy the light shows, take pictures and enjoy the Christmas spirit with friends. It the same in Hanoi, all corners of the Old Quarter are decorated and people gather at the St Joseph Cathedral.
Notre Dame Cathedral - Ho Chi Minh City
A significant part of Vietnam is Christian as the country was once under French influence. They will attend the Midnight Mass at local churches and organize performance for even non-Christian to enjoy the carols. Christmas is a big celebration in Singapore, not only for many Christians but also for young local. Streets and shops are decorated with fake snow, Christmas presents, Christmas trees, and men in red Santa suits. The shops on Orchard Road transform every Christmas into a wonderland of magic where every kind of gifts can be found and great photos are easy to take. Restaurants across the island give a festive twist with special menus to impress their customers. Partiers can take part in countdown party at Marina Bay with live music performance and the best fireworks show in Asia or dance the night away with thousands of revelers at the Siloso beach before great the new year with a bang. Hong Kong is a must-go destination to spend your Christmas out of the house. Christmas is a public holiday in Hong Kong and also coincides with Ta Chiu - the Taoist festival of renewal and peace. Can you see the similarity? During Ta Chiu, Hong Kong people pray and exhort all the spirits and deities of the year to let their collective power renews the lives. Christmas trees are a necessary decoration to all the public buildings and major malls. To create the joyful atmosphere, most of the buildings that face the Victoria Harbor are covered in the Christmas lights. The reflection on the water is absolutely marvelous. To feel more like home, you also get to shop for high-quality items at bargained prices.
Christmas in Hong Kong
Japanese has their own kind of Christmas. Influenced by Americans, the Japanese celebrate Christmas and New Year Eve parties and don’t have Lunar New Year. However, because Christianity is not widespread, Christmas in commercial form is more popular. People eat what they call "Christmas cake", a sponge cake with whipped cream and some fruit as toppings. The Japanese don’t have Santa Claus, instead, they have "Hoteiosho". He is described as an old man carrying a big sack and has eyes in the back of his head. That is why children have to behave when Hoteiosho is around. Still, Japanese lovers think that being together on Christmas is especially meaningful. Christmas presents are usually exchanged between lovers or close friends. December is also the time for “oseibo”, a tradition in which gifts are exchanged between companies. Nagano, the best base for skiing and other winter sports.
Tokyo Tower and Roppongi Christmas
In other places of Southeast Asia, Myanmar people celebrate Christmas for the whole December beginning from the 1st day of the month. The occasion is gradually more popular as ‘Sweet December’ by both the youth and elders. Though Myanmar is a primarily a Buddhist country, Christians and Christmas were brought here by the British. Therefore, non-Christians here also look forward to the celebrations regardless of religion or race. Interestingly, the church in Myanmar is decorated with golden yellow instead of the usual red, green and white colors.
Christmas in Myanmar
There are less than 2% of the population in Laos is Christian so it’s pretty hard to find a big Christmas celebration in the country. Vientiane and Luang Prabang have larger expat communities so you can see Christmas decorations around the towns. Restaurants host a sit down with Christmas Eve buffet. Or you might want to take in the Christmas spirit with twinkling lights and decorated trees, go to Vientiane Center to spread some joyful cheer to others.
Each country has its own way of celebrating Christmas but to all of them, Christmas is the occasion for friends and family to get together and enjoy the cheerful atmosphere. Come to Asia this season to experience the holiday like an Asian.