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Expat Articles » Christmas Traditions in Asia

Christmas Traditions in Asia

Whether you’re a new or an experienced expat, holidays would probably be the time when you miss home the most. What if you need to stay in Asia, your “home away from home” this holiday season? While you’re in Asia, do as the locals do and soak yourself in the local traditions!


In China, only about one percent of the population are Christians, so most know only a few things about Christmas. Because of this, Christmas is only often celebrated in the major cities, where you can find Christmas trees, lights and other decorations on the streets and in department stores. Only a few people have Christmas trees at home, which might be decorated with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns.

A new Chinese custom that's becoming popular is the giving of Christmas apples. People give apples on Christmas Eve to symbolize peacefulness. Since the pronunciation of the word 'apple' in Chinese 'Ping Guo' sounds similar to the word 'peace' in Chinese, and 'Christmas Eve' in Chinese is 'Ping An Ye' which means peaceful night, apples have become in demand especially during the yuletide season. This tradition started around 2006 and is sold in most stores wrapped in nicely decorated red paper or colored plastic wrapper.


Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India due to a small percentage (about 2.3%) of people who are Christians compared to people who belong to other religions. A unique Christmas tradition in India is to decorate a banana or mango tree instead of having traditional Christmas Trees. Sometimes people also use mango leaves to decorate their homes, just like they would do in Diwali festival.

In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world. Christians in Mumbai often display a manger in their front window. Families also go to great lengths to hang giant paper lanterns in the shape of stars between the houses so that the stars float above you as you walk down the road. Every household also makes sure that they have a stock of homemade sweets ready for visitors.


Although only about one percent of people are Christians, in Japan Christmas is known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents. In many ways it resembles Valentine's Day celebrations. Young couples like to go for walks to look at the Christmas lights and have a romantic meal in a restaurant - booking a table on Christmas Eve can be very difficult as it's so popular!

During Christmas, the Japanese have a Buddhist monk called Hotei-osho who acts like Santa Claus who brings presents to each house and leaves them for the children; although this Japanese god of good fortune is from Buddhism and not really related to Christmas.


Christians make up about 25-30% of the population in South Korea, so Christmas is celebrated more widely. Churches are decorated with lights and many have a bright red neon cross on top all year long so that goes very well with the Christmas lights. Most churches will have a service on Christmas day. Going to Church for Christmas is becoming more popular, even among non Christians.

During the holiday season, department stores put on big displays of decorations. There's also an amazing display of lights in the capital city, Seoul. The lights are all over the city centre including the bridges over the Han River.

Many families would have Christmas trees at home and exchange presents on Christmas day. Uniquely, the popular present in South Korea is money! Giving actually gifts has become more popular, but giving money is still very common.


Although Christians are not a majority in Singapore, Singapore goes crazy for Christmas. Christmas time in Singapore is largely a secular event that takes place not at home but in malls and restaurants around the city. Highly influenced by the Western nations, Christmas in Singapore is similar to Christmas in the Western countries, such as the concept of turkey dinner and the exquisite decorations of Christmas.

In Singapore, you will experience a sort of refreshing festive mood in the air. There are many types of programs and events like music performances, extravagant shopping sale, cruises, extensive lighting, caroling, parades, concerts, traditional dance shows and many more such types of events. For an overwhelming dose of Christmas cheer, head to Singapore’s shopping street of Orchard Road. This two-kilometer stretch is so spectacularly decorated they run nightly “Orchard Road Christmas Light Up” open-top bus tours and every mall has a Christmas tree or two, often made from materials like candy, jewels, ribbons, and even teddy bears.

Enjoy your Christmas in Asia with Asia Expat Guides

Being away from your friends and family and celebrating Christmas in a strange land must be very tough. Tasks like shopping the best ingredients for Christmas dinner, ordering food from the best catering companies or shopping the best gifts for your family might seem like mountainous tasks because you are not familiar with your new neighborhood. You can have a nice, memorable Christmas at your home away from home in Asia! We can assist you in your preparations like shopping for groceries or Christmas gifts, making dinner reservations in the best place in town or catering reservation for Christmas dinner at your new home, and so on.

Have an enjoyable holiday with Asia Expat Guides!