5 Ways the Chinese do Christmas slightly differently

Dec 19, 2016

Shen Dan Lao Ren‘ is coming to town. Christmas is a wonderful celebratory time of year, however in mainland China it is not even a public holiday. This explains why twenty years ago you probably wouldn’t have seen any signs of Christmas around here. Merrily, in today’s China you will see, hear and feel the Chinese Christmas spirit almost everywhere around you.


1. Lighting up the Christmas tree.
Few people have a Christmas tree, and if they do it is normally a plastic one they call “a tree of light”. The Christmas trees most people see are those displayed in big shopping malls! The strange thing is that most of the world’s plastic Christmas trees and Christmas decorations are made in China, but the people making them have no idea what they are for!
Participate in local festivals (like Hong Kong’s Ta Chiu festival), which happen in many parts of China.


2. Apple Night
A tradition that’s becoming popular, on Christmas Eve, is giving apples. Many stores have apples wrapped up in coloured paper for sale. People give apples on Christmas Eve because in Chinese Christmas Eve is called “Ping’an Ye” (平安夜), meaning peaceful or quiet evening, which has been translated from the carol ‘Silent Night’. The word for apple in Mandarin is “píngguǒ” (苹果) which sounds like the word for peace.

3. Santa’s list
Christmas comes with the annual headache: what gifts to buy? In China, Santa’s job is a little easier because it is not unusual to give friends and relatives red envelopes, containing lucky money, as a gift for Christmas. Exchanging Christmas cards or small, inexpensive gifts with close friends and family is also common.
Chinese interpretation of Mother Mary with Baby Jesus.

4. Creative Cristians
The small number of Christians in China call Christmas Sheng Dan Jie, which means Holy Birth Festival. They decorate their homes with evergreens, posters, and bright paper chains. The family puts up a Christmas tree, and decorates it with beautiful lanterns, flowers, and red paper chains that symbolize happiness. They cut out red pagodas to paste on the windows, and they light their houses with paper lanterns, too.

5. Celebrating at McDonald’s
For many young people, Christmas is an opportunity to get together with friends and have Christmas parties. These might be held at a friend’s house, McDonald’s, KTV, restaurant, or bar. There’s a festive atmosphere, and people enjoy the decorations and Christmas carols. Many young couples view Christmas as a romantic holiday and some choose to celebrate the occasion with a happy meal at McDonald’s.

Rudolph the red-noised … Panda?

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