Christmas is a time for celebrating with loved ones, but it’s also a time to reflect on all the people who helped make your life what it is today. In the continent of Asia, there are several unique ways to celebrate Christmas that you may have never heard of!
Whether you’re celebrating Christmas in Tokyo or San Francisco, we hope this list inspires you to cook some amazing dishes and spend some quality time with your family.
Flip Flop Daily continues our series of exploring Festivities all over the world with Asia!
Find out how different these global holiday traditions are, from Christmas on sandy beaches with fresh seafood to picture perfect Christmas markets during the cold winter.
We hope these inspire you to start some unique new traditions of your own.
Christmas in the Philippines
Christmas is celebrated in the Philippines for as long as possible! Shops begin playing Christmas carols in September! A formal Christmas celebration begins on December 16th with the first of nine pre-dawn masses. Christmas day is the last mass. Christmas celebrations continue until Epiphany, or Feast of the Three Kings, on the First Sunday in January.
Filipinos refer to the early mass held before Christmas as ‘Misa de Gallo’ or ‘Simbang Gabi’.
The majority of Filipinos are Christians, with about 80% being Catholics – the only country in Asia with this many Christians. Christmas is one of the most important holidays in the Philippines because of this.
The Philippines has a tradition of having a star-shaped Christmas lantern, called ‘paról’, which is traditionally made from bamboo and paper. It represents the star of Bethlehem. The lanterns are shown in the image above.
There are many markets in the Philippines that sell these Christmas lanterns during the holiday season.
Christmas in Japan
It has only been a few decades since Christmas has become widely celebrated in Japan. As there aren’t many Christians in Japan, it isn’t seen as a religious holiday. Several customs from the USA are now popular in Japan, such as sending and receiving Christmas cards and presents.
Christmas in Japan is more of a time to spread happiness than a religious celebration. It is common for people to celebrate Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day. As a romantic date, couples exchange presents and spend Christmas Eve together.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, fried chicken is often eaten. Restaurants such as KFC are busiest during this time of year, so people can order in advance! In 1974, KFC ran an advertisement called ‘Kentucky for Christmas!’ (Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!) which was extremely successful and made KFC popular for the holidays!
The traditional Japanese Christmas food is Christmas cake, which is usually a sponge cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream rather than a rich fruit cake. It is Japanese Christmas cake that is represented by the ‘shortcake’ emoji.
Christmas in China
The majority of Chinese people only know a few things about Christmas since only about one percent of them are Christians. This is why Christmas is often celebrated only in major cities. The streets and department stores in these big cities are decorated with Christmas Trees, lights, and other decorations. In China, Santa Claus is called Shengdan Laoren (old Christmas Man) and there are grottos in shops like in Europe and America. Before Christmas, the postmen might dress up as Santa!
Christmas parties are becoming more popular in cities and young couples are giving gifts to each other akin to Valentine’s Day.
Giving apples on Christmas Eve has become a popular tradition. There are many stores that sell apples wrapped in colored paper. On Christmas Eve, people give apples since in Chinese it’s called ‘Ping’an Ye’, which refers to a peaceful or quiet evening, which is taken from the carol ‘Silent Night’. Apple in Mandarin is “píngguǒ” (苹果) which sounds like the word for peace.
Christmas in Singapore
About two out of ten Singaporeans are Christians. Christmas in Singapore is very commercialized, however, with countless tiny fairy light decorations adorning the city.
There are stunning decorations everywhere along Orchard Road, Singapore’s main shopping district. Singapore even has a Christmas theme park called ‘Christmas Wonderland’. Locals and tourists alike enjoy visiting this place.
Christmas Trees have become popular as well, but they are decorated differently in Singapore. Among the most popular decorations are candy, ribbons, and teddy bears.
There is a life-size Nativity Scene outside St Andrew’s Cathedral. It is becoming more popular to attend a midnight church service even if you are not a Christian.
Christmas foods include ‘western’ things like Roast Turkey, although they may be flavored with ginger and chili to make them particularly Singaporean.
Christmas in Malaysia
Malaysians celebrate Christmas primarily as a commercial and secular holiday. In Malaysia, Christians make up less than 10% of the population, so most people only think of Christmas as a time for parties, decorations, and presents.
The 25th of December is a national public holiday in Sabah, as is Christmas Eve.
Malls compete to have the biggest and most impressive Christmas displays and decorations. The decorations include a lot of lights, Santa’s, reindeer, fake snow (there is no real snow in Malaysia!) and huge Christmas trees. Trees can sometimes reach multiple stories high! Additionally, some malls will feature indoor ice rinks and carol singers.
After Christmas day has finished, all decorations are removed as soon as possible. New Year’s decorations are then put up in the malls!
There are often special Christmas menus at restaurants. It’s a big day for restaurants, parties and Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve. In Malaysia, roast or fried chicken is the most popular Christmas dish.
Wrapping it all up!
No matter where you celebrate Christmas it’s important to remember that there are many similarities between Christmas celebrations around the world.
Different countries have vastly different Christmas traditions, the celebration of family, food, and faith is a common thread.
Even though different countries have vastly different traditions surrounding their own version of December 25th (and sometimes even before), there are some commonalities in how we celebrate this most wonderful holiday season—especially when it comes to our families!
Celebrating with family at home is an important part of any celebration; especially since many people spend so much time away from theirs during their childhoods. So whether you’re traveling abroad or just looking for some inspiration on how best to make those long distance phone calls work out better than ever before…
We hope you enjoyed reading about how Christmas has been celebrated around the world. We’ve only touched on a few countries here, but there are many more that can be explored—and even more things to learn about them! Happy holidays from all of us at Flip Flop Daily!