Despite the origins of Christmas being firmly in this continent, Christmas in Asia has always been more of a secular affair, lacking the modern day Santa Claus influenced razzmatazz that is now the staple celebration type in the Western world.
However, times are slowly changing. As the world gets smaller and easier to travel across, cultures become intertwined and influenced by others far more easily. The Western definition of Christmas is slowly creeping its way across the Eastern world. Here’s how some Asian countries now celebrate Christmas.
Japan is an example of a country which didn’t celebrate Christmas at all until very recently. Although general Western influence has played a part, one probably shouldn’t downplay the direct influence made by Tokyo Disneyland since its opening in 1983!
Although the Disney Christmas is in the background, the celebrations in Japan are mainly about happiness and wellbeing as opposed to being thought of as a religious festival.
Japan considers Christmas Eve to be the most important day of the celebrations and it is often seen as a romantic day with couple taking the time to be together and go out on long strolls.
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In Singapore the favourite pastimes are eating and shopping, so Christmas is generally just an excuse to do it in far greater volume!
It’s no surprise that Orchard Road, Singapore’s most famous shopping district, bears the majority of the Christmas cheer with its spectacular light displays and decorations. There’s no snow, but you could believe you’re in any Western city celebrating Christmas, with all the glitz and glamour.
That’s not to say the Christmas isn’t also a religious day, Singapore has many Christians who will celebrate in the usual way. It’s just that the fake snow and Santa costumes are that little bit more prominent.
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You might not think of India as a particularly Christian country, but in fact there are over 25 million Christians living there.
Midnight Mass is an important event which is attended by families before they partake in a huge feast and hand out presents. All of which sounds very familiar!
The churches are decorated with red flowers and adorned with candles. What you won’t find in India is a traditional Christmas tree. Instead you’ll see decorated banana and mango tree in people’s houses.
You can’t miss the start of Christmas Celebrations in Sri Lanka, every year at dawn on 1 December, firecrackers are let off across the country. Again, like a lot of Asian countries (and European countries), the main day for Christmas celebrations is Christmas Eve. Like India you’ll find the Midnight Mass services are very popular.
Feasts are the norm and although it is a Christian event, it is seen as important to invite people of all faiths to partake. There’s even a Santa Claus, but the Sri Lankans know him as Nathtal Seeya.
Houses is China are decorated with lights this time of year, much the same as they are in the UK. However, this is generally more to do with celebration of the coming of winter, rather than the coming of Christmas.
Christmas celebrations can be found in the country, especially in the cities, but the suburbs are slowly getting in on the fun too. This is obviously due to the influence of Dun Che Lao Ten, the Chinese version of the man in the red suit.
A lot of Chinese children do hang out stockings in the hope that they will be filed with presents come morning, but the main giving and receiving is done in the form of apples.
People in China give brightly wrapped apples to each other at Christmas in the belief that it is a symbol of peace.
The predominance of the Buddhist religion in Thailand has meant that until recent years the country has remained largely unaffected by the festive buzz.
School children do enjoy some celebrations, with singing, dancing and party games being the norm for a school day at this time of year.
Cities like Bangkok are much more susceptible to Western influence that the quieter country towns, so you can always see Christmas lights displayed and Buddhists celebrating alongside Christians in the many bars and clubs.