Chinese New Year is the Chinese version of Christmas in China, but many Chinese get in the holiday spirit at Christmas in China. Christmas is not an official holiday in China, so most offices, schools and shops remain open. All the trappings of a Western Christmas can be found in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
Are There Christmas Decorations in China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan?
Department stores are decorated with Christmas trees, twinkling lights and festive decorations starting in late November. Store clerks often wear Santa hats and green and red accessories. It’s not uncommon to see leftover Christmas decorations still decking the halls well into February or hear Christmas music at cafes in July.
While China exports a lot of Christmas spirit in the form of cheap plastic toys and mass produced ornaments, some families opt to have a small Christmas tree during Christmas in China. Few homes have Christmas lights strung outside or candles in the windows. Malls, banks and restaurants often have Christmas displays, Christmas trees, and lights. Large shopping malls help usher in Christmas in China with tree lighting ceremonies.
What about Santa Claus?
It’s not uncommon to see a Santa Claus at malls and hotels across Asia. Children can often have their picture taken with Santa and some department stores coordinate a home visit from a gift-bearing Santa. While Chinese children do not leave out cookies and milk for Santa or write a note requesting gifts, many children enjoy a visit with Santa.
In China and Taiwan, Santa is called 聖誕老人 (shèngdànlǎorén) and, instead of elves, he is often accompanied in Taiwan with his sisters, young women dressed in elf or red and white skirts. In Hong Kong, Santa is called Lan Khoong or Dun Che Lao Ren.
Are There Any Christmas Activities Leading Up to Christmas in China?
Ice skating is available year-round at indoor rinks throughout Asia, but special places to ice skate during Christmas in China are Weiming Lake at Peking University in Beijing and Houkou Swimming Pool Leisure Rink, a massive swimming pool in Shanghai that’s converted into an ice rink in the winter. Snowboarding is also available in Nanshan, outside of Beijing, and skiing is easily done at Yinqixing Indoor Skiing Site (上海银七星室内滑雪场) in Shanghai.
For spectacular holiday light displays and fake snow, head to the Western theme parks in Hong Kong, such as Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park. The Hong Kong Tourism Board also sponsors WinterFest, an annual Christmas wonderland.
A variety of performances, including touring productions of The Nutcracker are often staged in major cities during the Christmas season in China. Check English-language magazines City Weekend and Time Out Beijing and Time Out Shanghai for shows in Beijing and Shanghai. That’s Beijing and That’s Shanghai are also good resources for shows.
A variety of touring shows are staged in Hong Kong and Macau. Check Time Out Hong Kong for details. In Taiwan, consult The Center website or English language newspapers like the Taipei Times for details.
How Is Christmas in China Celebrated?
Shopping sprees in the weeks leading up to Christmas are popular in China. A growing number of Chinese celebrate on Christmas Eve by eating Christmas dinners with friends. Exchanging Christmas cards with close friends and family is becoming more popular as is exchanging small, inexpensive gifts.
Gift hampers, which include edible Christmas treats, are on sale at many hotels and specialty stores during Christmas in China. Christmas cards, gift wrap and decorations are easily found at large markets, hypermarkets, and small shops.
Traditional Christmas dinners are readily available at hotel restaurants and Western restaurants during Christmas in China. Supermarket chains catering to foreigners like Jenny Lou’s and Carrefour in China and City’Super in Hong Kong and Taiwan sell all the trimmings needed for a home-cooked Christmas feast.
An East-meets-West Christmas dinner can also be had during Christmas in China. 八宝鸭 (bā bǎo yā, eight treasures duck) is the Chinese version of a stuffed turkey. It is a whole duck stuffed with diced chicken, smoked ham, peeled shrimp, fresh chestnuts, bamboo shoots, dried scallops and mushrooms stir-fried with slightly undercooked rice, soy sauce, ginger, spring onions, white sugar and rice wine.
While most Chinese opt to overlook Christmas’s religious roots, a sizable minority do head to church for services in a variety of languages, including Chinese, English and French. There were some 16 million Chinese Christians in China in 2005, according to the Chinese government. Christmas services are held at an array of state-run churches in China and at houses of worship throughout Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
While government offices, restaurants, and shops are open on Christmas day, international schools and some embassies and consulates are closed on Dec. 25 in China. Christmas Day (Dec. 25) and Boxing Day (Dec. 26) are public holidays in Hong Kong in which government offices and businesses are closed. Macau recognizes Christmas as a holiday and most businesses are closed. In Taiwan, Christmas coincides with Constitution Day (行憲紀念日). Taiwan used to observe Dec. 25 as a day off. Currently, Dec. 25 is a regular working day in Taiwan.