4 Unique ways Asian countries celebrate Christmas

While the Christian population may be small in many Asian countries, that doesn’t stop some places from going all out for Christmas. Particularly in larger cities and destinations frequented by Western visitors and expat communities, the festive spirit is alive and thriving.

In certain parts of Asia, December 25th may be just another day at the office. However, in other locations, this special day is celebrated with extraordinary and enchanting traditions. Let’s take a glimpse into the remarkable and magical Christmas customs found across Asia. Get ready to be amazed!


1. Japan – Christmas with KFC

In Japan, forget about traditional turkey carving at the Christmas dinner table. Instead, embrace the unique holiday tradition of indulging in some “Finger Lickin’ Good” fried chicken!

It all began back in December 1974 when the American-born fast-food chain KFC came up with a brilliant marketing idea. They positioned themselves as the go-to place for the ultimate Christmas meal, and this concept quickly caught on. Now, a trip to KFC during Christmas has become an integral part of many families’ celebrations. Believe it or not, an estimated 3.6 million families come together each year, sharing a bountiful KFC bucket. As a result, KFC in Japan is buzzing with activity throughout December, with pre-orders being made weeks in advance.

You won’t just be feasting on tasty chicken; it’s also served in festive packaging, adding to the joyous holiday spirit. Dining on ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ from none other than the Santa look-alike Colonel Sanders has become an unconventional tradition that Japanese families embrace to mark the festive season.

KFC Christmas


2. China – Engraved Apples

Did you know that Christmas is not widely celebrated in China, with only 1% of the population being Christian? However, don’t be fooled – the festive season is still a highly commercial affair, with shopping malls decked out in dazzling decorations, just like anywhere else in the world! But here’s the exciting part – there’s a one-of-a-kind tradition associated with Christmas in China that can’t be found anywhere else.

In Mandarin, Christmas Eve is called “ping an ye,” which means the night of safety and peace. Interestingly, the word for “apple” in Mandarin is “ping guo,” which sounds similar to “ping an ye.” So, it’s no surprise that exchanging apples has become a popular way to spread goodwill among friends, colleagues, and loved ones in China during the holiday season. But wait, there’s more – these aren’t just any apples. They are often engraved with well wishes and beautifully wrapped in patterned cellophane or elegant boxes, making for a truly unique and memorable gift.

China Apple



3. South Korea – Grandpa Santa

Did you know that close to a third of South Koreans consider themselves Christian? Combine that with the cold weather and snow, and you have a great chance of experiencing a white Christmas in South Korea. Christmas is celebrated as a national holiday, a special day to gather with loved ones and friends, and the festivities have their own South Korean twist.

Instead of the traditional Western Christmas dishes, South Koreans indulge in their own festive delicacies, such as mouthwatering beef bulgogi, flavorful japchae sweet potato noodles, and, of course, abundant servings of kimchi.

Here’s another exciting aspect – meet Santa Haraboji, also known as Grandpa Santa. In South Korea, he likes to switch up his look by donning green or blue robes, deviating from his traditional red attire. You might even spot him wearing a gat, a tall top hat worn by nobility in Imperial Korea. It’s a delightful blend of old and new.

And if you happen to be in Seoul, make sure to visit Jogyesa Buddhist temple, where Christmas tree-shaped lanterns illuminate the temple courtyard. These lanterns symbolize religious peace and harmony, offering a unique experience that reflects the diversity and inclusivity of South Korea’s culture.

Korea Santa


4. The Philippines – The World’s Longest Christmas

Did you know that the Philippines boasts the longest Yuletide season in the world? Get ready for a holiday extravaganza that will leave you in awe. Starting as early as August, pop-up shops line major shopping streets, offering an array of festive decorations to get you into the Christmas spirit. And guess what? You can hear carols playing in stores, spreading holiday cheer throughout the year!

Mark your calendars because the official Christmas countdown, also known as the ‘Ber Months’, begins on September 1st and continues until the Feast of the Three Kings in early January. That’s months of festive celebrations, creating an unparalleled holiday experience.

As Asia’s largest Catholic country, the Philippines takes its Christmas traditions to new heights. Filipinos participate in the nine-day-long Simbang Gabi, a series of masses leading up to the Misa de Gallo mass on Christmas Eve. After church, it’s time for Noche Buena, a joyous feast where families, friends, and neighbors come together to wish each other Merry Christmas. Indulge in delectable dishes like lechon roasted pig and coconut-laced bibingka rice cakes. Your taste buds will thank you!

When it comes to decorations, the Philippines shines with its vibrant parols – colorful star-shaped lanterns that add a magical touch. These stunning lanterns, hanging from bamboo poles, symbolize the star that guided the Wise Men to Jesus, and they are a sight to behold.

Philippines Christmas


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