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Christmas in Asia

It’s Christmas Eve!

It’s Christmas time and what better way to do an edition of Anything Asian than by discussing how Asians celebrate Christmas?

First of all, not everyone is Asia celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a Christian tradition, and while most Westerners (Europe, the Americas, etc) are practicing Christianity, most of Asia don’t. If I am correct, most people in Asia practice Buddhism, and it would not be surprising since Buddhism was born in Asia. Wait, just a minute. Wasn’t Christianity born in Asia too? Now, I’m confused.

Anyways, I’ll ponder on this serious matter some other time. For now, let’s see how Asians celebrate Christmas.


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Since I live in the Philippines, I do know how we celebrate Christmas as Filipinos. Philippines is the biggest Catholic country in all of Asia, so Christmas is a very prominent holiday in the country.

Loads of colorful Christmas lanterns, Simbang Gabi (Nine Church Masses from December 16-24, usually in the very early morning), foods like Bibingka and Puto Bumbong (exclusive every Christmas), children caroling in front of your house every night – these are just some of the highlights of Christmas in the Philippines. You still have your Christmas parties, but they do not usually happen on Christmas Eve, because December 24 usually marks the Noche Buena, or the Christmas Eve dinner, and the family must be together for this dinner. Filipinos have very close family ties, and the celebration of Christmas Eve together is a portrayal of the importance we give to family. 


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From what I watched from Anime, Christmas in Japan is like a 2nd Valentine’s Day. The highlight usually would be for couples. Christmas is not a national holiday. People from Japan are usually Shintoists or Buddhists, so the celebration of Christmas is mostly for  commercial purposes. People still give gifts to people on Christmas, but unlike the Christian celebration in the Philippines, it mostly does not mean anything religious-related. 

South Korea

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About a quarter of South Korea’s population are Christians. Although this is the case, I have seen many Korean idols promote Christmas albums and commercials. Christmas is treated according to what an individual thinks. Some people think it’s about charity, others a normal pace of life. South Koreans give gifts in different forms like any other races, and they also spend time with their family. However, Christmas celebration is not as extravagant as other national holidays like the Lunar New Year. 


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Singapore is a big shopping center, and during the Christmas season, establishments hold various sales and promos for consumers. Decorations are very extravagant, as if preparing for tourists to come. 

Indonesia and Malaysia

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Malaysia and Indonesia are big Muslim countries. About less than 10% of the population comprise Christians, but Jesus is believed as a prophet by Muslims, so they also celebrate his birth, although not as festive as the Christian celebration. People decorate their homes and give gifts with one another too.


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Interestingly, Indians also celebrate Christmas, even if only 2% of the entire population are actual Christians. Because the country was colonized and influenced by the British government, even schools celebrate Christmas. Instead of the pine tree used in Christmas trees, Indians often decorate mango or banana trees. 

It is traditional for Indians to give gifts during this season, but unlike other countries, they are not only expected to give gifts to friends and family members, they also have to give to the unfortunate and the poor.


Bangladesh and Pakistan

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Both in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Christmas is know as the Great Day. In Pakistan, people celebrate Christmas by wearing new clothes, visiting family and friends and exchanging gifts. They also have to attend church on that day.

In Bangladesh, people cut banana trees and form arches using two trees. They build this as a special pathway to a church service. They put oil on these arches, so they sort of make a lighted way to the service. 


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Most Israelites are Jews, so they do not practice the celebration of Christmas. Hannukah, an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple. Christians living in Israel however, do pilgrimage along the places where Jesus Christ lived, most especially in Bethlehem where he was born.


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Decoration can be seen in China during the Christmas season, but as a country mainly practicing Taoism, the minority of Christians usually privately celebrate Christmas. Christianity is an oppressed religion in China, as it is a communist country, and some people have to secretly read the Bible (these events are told by my Pastors, I dunno if it still happens). This happens mainly on Mainland China. As for Hong Kong and Macau, they are wide tourist attractions, and they are as well-decorated as Singapore during the season.

That’s it for this edition of Anything Asian. No matter how you celebrate the holidays (or if you ever do), I hope you celebrate it with joy and love. Information on how people celebrate Christmas here might not be accurate. These are based on slight research and stocked knowledge.

Catch you guys soon! 

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