“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” says the music blasting from every corner of the shopping mall. But do Chinese people celebrate Christmas? The answer is yes…and no.
Like the rest of the world, Christmas Day in China is on December 25th each year. However, Christmas traditions in the country are relatively young and it is mainly celebrated as a commercial season instead of a religious day. Here are more interesting facts about how the Chinese celebrate Christmas!
1) Christmas Day is not a religious celebration.
In many parts of the world, Christmas Day is a Christian holiday celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth. But in China, observers estimate only 3-5% of the population is Christian, which means Christmas is more of a secular season of shopping and feasting. Tapping into the festive mood, commercial establishments and malls attract shoppers with seasonal sales.
Large shopping malls in China are open for the Christmas craze, and
carols can be heard playing in the stores.
2) Christmas Day is celebrated like Valentine’s Day.
Western countries celebrate Christmas with family, but in China celebrations are like Valentine’s Day. It’s a lighthearted day for young people to go out with their significant others and celebrate with small gifts. They also hang out with friends to go out to a movie, karaoke bar, or go shopping.
3) Christmas is not a public holiday.
Because of the first two facts, Christmas is not an official holiday in China and you may be asked to report to work on this day. Students also don’t get to take the day off!
But in Hong Kong and Macau where British and Portuguese influence is heavy, people enjoy a two-day public holiday every year.
4) China has a Christmas Village.
Beiji Village is China’s first Christmas theme park. It is located in the northernmost arctic part of China in the Mohe countryside. You can see the Northern Lights in this village, ride a sled, play with snow, visit Santa Claus’s House and experience Christmas like never before.
The Christmas Village Disney Snow Sculpture Park in Beiji Village in Mohe.
5) It’s all about Santa’s sisters and friends.
Forget about Santa’s reindeer or helper elves, it’s all about his sisters and friends in China. In malls, Santa is accompanied by women wearing fun Christmas-themed costumes. Chinese Santas also go out in packs with other Santas.
6) A town in China manufactures 60% of Christmas decorations in the world!
Yiwu, a town in Zhejiang province is the main source of the world’s Christmas decorations. This town is popular for its wholesale goods, affordable pricing and huge marketplace. Back in 2012, Yiwu had more than 750 manufacturing companies making Christmas products. The rest of the world has Yiwu to thank for Christmas!
Yiwu Christmas market is the biggest Christmas products export market in
7) China’s image of Santa is playing the saxophone.
We often see Santa mascots giving gifts or candies to children, but in China, Santas are often shown playing the sax or French horn. There is no known explanation for the roots of this tradition, but perhaps a sax jamming Santa playing beautiful music appears romantic in Chinese perspective.
One Chinese journalist Helen Gao wrote, “My guess is that it perhaps has to do with the fact that saxophone is obviously an instrument with a Western origin, which fits Santa’s image, and is portable so Santa can make Christmas music anywhere he goes. Sound like enough reason for Chinese to lump the two together?”
8) Peace apples wrapped beautifully are a common gift.
A common present in China during Christmas Eve is the Peace Apple which is wrapped in fancy cellophane. In Mandarin, Christmas Eve is sometimes translated as “Ping’an Ye” which literally means “Silent Night,” just like the Christmas carol. Apple in Chinese is “Ping guo”, which sounds like peace, thus the gifting of apples. If you eat the apple, you will have peace and safety throughout the year.
Peace apples wrapped in beautiful bags are common gifts during Christmas
9) Beijing hosts a SantaCon, and other Christmas parties!
If you live in a larger city like Beijing and Shanghai, or are part of an expat community (foreigners living abroad in China), chances are the Christmas season is a blend of many cultures for you. International communities in China get creative to make the holiday festive for foreigners and Chinese alike.
In Beijing, you might have heard of SantaCon! Though limited because of Covid concerns, SantaCon is a place to “dress up in Santa suits, run around Beijing for hours, give gifts, sing songs, have strangers sit on our laps and decide who is naughty or nice.” Beijing residents can look forward to the exciting sight of hundreds of Santas running down the street!
Shanghai is host to many Christmas markets each year! Often in a European theme, they sell traditional holiday treats like Glühwein (mulled wine) and other pastries and cakes, as well as holiday symbols like evergreen wreaths. Even if there’s no snow or weeklong holiday, Shanghai’s residents will brave the cold to take advantage of the Christmas discounts, holidays parties, and Christmas-themed events.
These are just some of the most fascinating things about China. We at China Admissions are an international, Chinese-speaking team. Our founder is from the UK and our international team from 8 countries have been living in Beijing for an average of 8-12 years.
The longer we live in China, the more fascinating things we learn and discover….
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