With the holiday season quickly approaching, now is the time to start preparing ahead to secure the best airfare, accommodations, and experiences for your time and money.
If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime Christmas destination that won’t disappoint, many people recommend Asia. The region has everything you might want from an adventurous vacation: beautiful scenery, interesting history, delicious cuisine, and lots of outdoor activities.
When Christmas comes to certain Asian countries, the magic is different. Here you can wear flip flops to celebrate Christmas because most countries have sunshine all year round. Asians gather round swimming pools instead of fireplaces, and we just can’t wait to dive in that tradition!
Amidst the twinkling lights and glittering decorations, no one should be surprised to hear that spending time with loved ones is the most important part of Christmas for Asians.
They bring out the best in the holiday and its symbols, even though many of them aren’t Christians. All they want is to show kindness to everyone and take part in the global celebration. For some Asians, the celebration is more about honoring the key symbols—friends, family, togetherness, and fairytale decorations—than it is about religion.
Many Asian countries have adopted the Westernized Christmas tradition, complete with Santa Claus and elaborate celebrations. Allow me to whisk you away to some of the most important cultural and commercial hubs in Asia so you may experience the wonder of the season.
- The Philippines—A Celebration Unparalleled
When it comes to Christmas seasons, the Philippines owns the record for the longest. You can start hearing Christmas music in stores as early as August, and you’ll see pop-up shops selling all sorts of holiday decorations along main retail routes. Beginning on September 1st, the official Christmas countdown, or “Ber Months” as they are more often called, runs all the way up to the Feast of the Three Kings in early January.
A sizable portion of the population identifies as Christian. ‘Santa is Coming to Town’ and other well-known tunes start playing as early as October. A fusion of western and indigenous Filipino practices characterizes the culture. Filipinos celebrate the holiday season with Santa, Christmas trees, greeting cards, and music – plus parties, shopping and an abundance of dazzling lights.
In honor of the star that led the wise men on their journey, the parol—a bamboo pole or frame adorned with a lit star lantern—is a beloved Philippine adornment. Filipinos celebrate Christmas Eve with the Misa de Gallo service, the last of a nine-day Simbang Gabi series of masses that takes place in the biggest Catholic nation in Asia.
Noche Buena is a feast that follows mass; it’s an open house party when people come to visit with loved ones and exchange Christmas greetings. The food served during the celebration includes lechon, a roasted pig, and bibingka rice cakes that are flavored with coconut.
- India: A Christmas of Sun and Stars
As is typical of Indian celebrations, Christmas is a riot of color and energy. Goa and other locations with large Catholic populations have the most spectacular celebrations, though they happen all around the nation. Here, houses, churches, and markets all get in on the festive spirit by hanging things like gigantic paper lanterns in the shape of stars between neighbors’ homes to make them seem like they’re floating over the streets.
On Christmas Eve, the majority of Goans gather for a lavish feast of shared dishes, such as biriyani, meat curries, and kuswar, a variety of desserts and pastries from the Goan cuisine. Christians in the area gather after supper for midnight service in churches adorned with candles and Poinsettias. Santa Claus, or Christmas Baba as he is most often known in India, still brings presents to kids. Supposedly, though, he does not ride a reindeer-drawn sleigh but instead arrives with presents in a horse-drawn cart.
- How Hong Kong celebrates a Chinese Christmas
Christmas is becoming more popular in China’s bigger, more internationally impacted cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong, even though it is not a national holiday in China. In most cases, the holiday falls on a workday, and people only invite close friends and family to celebrate in private. Thanks to the many Chinese tourists and expats in the area, I noticed a plethora of cheerful decorations, sparkling lights, and even a Santa Claus village at a few shopping centers. Their European ancestry is a major factor in this, particularly in Hong Kong.
The custom of exchanging apples on Christmas Eve is gaining in popularity. Píngguǒ, the Mandarin word for apple, has a similar sound to the term for peace. This is reminiscent of Ping’an Ye, the translation of Christmas Eve, which means tranquil or quiet evening.
- Japanese Christmas Strawberries with Cream
Even though Japan is a country that loves the winter season and all the usual Christmas songs, that’s about it when it comes to western traditions. As a result of one of the most successful marketing programs in history, which began in the 1970s, Japanese families now enjoy large buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken for Thanksgiving instead of turkey. Christmas Cake, a sugary sponge topped with whipped cream and strawberries, has supplanted the heavy Christmas pudding as the dessert of choice.
In Japan, gift-exchanging does still happen, but it is more common for couples to do it on Christmas Eve. As a matter of fact, many Japanese view Christmas Eve as their own unique form of Valentine’s Day.
- Singapore—Dazzling Christmas Lights and Decorations
Singapore goes all out for Christmas, even though (or perhaps because of) the unseasonably chilly weather. The people of Singapore get an extra reason to indulge in their favorite pastimes—eating and shopping—during a major holiday. Christians in the nation still hold the festival in high regard. Everyone is welcome to join in the joy of playing in artificial snow, seeing men dressed as Santa Claus, and, of course, exchanging Christmas gifts, even though for others it is a religious festival similar to any other. I even discovered Christmas markets in a prime location that may rival the most famous European ones.
No, Christmas is not merely a Western celebration. While regional traditions and customs influence the holiday season in different parts of the globe, the focus is always on family and delicious food. We hope these ideas, ranging from buckets of KFC to a nine-day series of church services, encourage you to wear flip flops while celebrating the holiday season!
An extraordinary journey through Asia awaits you this holiday season; away from the swarms of retailers and tourists, you can immerse yourself in the local culture, sample delicious cuisine, and soak in the sunshine. As we’ve said before – we’re dreaming of a White Sand Christmas. If you are too, time to pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in Asia. Create an unforgettable Christmas this year!
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