Christmas Traditions in Asia
Asia is a melting pot of cultures, but one of the things that bind Asians together is Christmas – even if most countries in the region are not predominantly Christian. Christmas is one of the most popular holidays in the continent, and it’s also interesting to know that Asian countries have their own ways of celebrating the Yuletide Season. Learn more about the best of them below!
First up: The Philippines.
Christmas is big in the Pearl of the Orient Seas. In fact, some families start decorating their homes at the onset of the “ber” months with Christmas trees and lanterns, “parol” in Filipino
On the 16th of December, simbang gabi or misa de gallo, begins. It signals the official start of the Christmas Season in the country. People flock to church as early as 3 in the morning for 9 days, believing that by completing the 9 days, they’d be able to get whatever it is that they’re wishing for. Then, on Christmas Eve, big celebrations happen in every home! Puto bumbong (glutinous rice) and bibingka (rice cake) are usually eaten after simbang gabi.
Traditionally, Filipinos eat ham, queso de bola (big cheese ball), and roasted chicken on Christmas Eve. Kids then wait for midnight or Christmas Day to open their gifts, and visit their relatives, making Christmas one big family affair.
Oh, and don’t forget kids who go caroling, too! Kids sing Christmas carols, knock on doors, and ask for a few coins or candies. After all, it’s the season for giving, right?
While only 2 percent of Japanese are Christians, they still celebrate Christmas, and business owners are happy because their businesses thrive during the season.
Ludwig Van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, fondly called Daiku,is usually played during the Christmas Season in Japan. And in Tokyo, people flock to see a giant Christmas tree made from champagne glasses that perfectly illuminate the brightness and happiness of the season!
Meanwhile, in India, people make use of banana or mango trees as Christmas trees and decorate them with clay lamps and paper trimmings. The lights are said to symbolize that Christ is around—and he’s the light of the world!
People in Mumbai also place the nativity scene by their windows, and for a whole week during Christmas, they allow kids to go from house to house to sing carols and make everyone happy!
In Vietnam, midnight masses during the Christmas season are popular. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are also filled with festivities—and food!
Mostly, Vietnamese homes serve turkey, chicken soup, and pudding; and kids are also told to leave their shoes outside so Santa could come and bring them gifts.
Finally, in Korea, food is extravagant and celebrations are big during the Christmas Season. Their traditional Christmas meals include bulgogi (barbecued beef), rice soup, sweet potato noodles, and kimchi.
They also believe in Santa—more popularly known locally as Santa Haraboji, who wears red and blue clothes, and gives gifts to kids of all ages!
Christmas truly is a festive and colorful season in most of Asia. It just goes to show that no matter what the differences are, Asians believe in the significance and goodness of the season—and that it should be spent with people they love!