Does Santa eat sushi?

In today’s ever shrinking world, travellers may find themselves “outside the box’ during the Holiday Season. 

What can you expect from Christmas in Asia? 

Christians form a minor part of the demographic in Asia, particularly in South and Southeast Asia, however the vast population still means many people embrace the Christmas spirit. 

For example, while only five per cent of the Chinese population identify as Christian, that is still more than 65 million people. Similarly, in India, less than three per cent of the population is Christian and that still amounts to over 26 million people. 

Obviously, it won’t be a white Christmas, but you’ll be surprised by the shared values and traditions.


Dec. 25 is just an ordinary working day in Mainland China. 

The large East Coast cities of Beijing and Shanghai have embraced the Christmas season for its “commercial” value and the decorations and lights displayed on their streets and shopping malls rival those of New York and Los Angeles. 

There is no traditional dinner or gift giving per se, but they do have their version of Santa called “Sheng dan lao ren,” which translates to Old Christmas Man. 

Gift giving is limited to cellophane wrapped apples between loved ones. The reason being that Christmas Eve in Mandarin (pronounced Ping-An-Ye) is like the word for apple (Ping Guo). 

The irony behind the limited celebration of Christmas in China is that over 60 per cent of the world’s Christmas decorations are manufactured in Chinese factories by workers who likely have no understanding of what the goods are used for.


Although fewer than two per cent of the population identify Christianity as their religion, Japan adopted their own facsimile of Christmas celebrations. 

Gift giving is limited to children only so that the legend of Santa as the gift giver is kept intact. Christmas Eve is celebrated as Couple’s Day in the same fashion as we North Americans keep the Valentine’s Day tradition. 

One tradition is the KFC Christmas dinner trend. Thousands flock to the food chain as their provider of Christmas dinner every year.


Again, not recognized as a day off work, nonetheless the Vietnamese decorate their squares and buildings with lights and finery. Christmas Eve is celebrated as a chance to eat out, watch light shows, throw confetti and enjoy the spirit of sharing.


Christmas is big in the Philippines. Most of the population is Christian due to the Spanish colonial influence. The Philippines is known for having one of the most lavish and long-running Christmas celebrations in the world. 

Christmas carols are heard as early as September and masses and festivals last well into January. 

Unique traditions such as Simbang Gabi (the nine evening masses leading up to Christmas Day), the “parols,” which are the bamboo and paper lanterns equivalent to our Christmas trees, and the practice of the little one’s who polish their shoes and leave them by open windows with the hopes that the Three Kings will leave presents in them as they walk by.

In truth, Christmas is an opportunity to share good thoughts, good food and fun with your fellow man. It can be celebrated in every corner of the Earth with good intentions and a giving nature. 

Merry Christmas wherever you may be.

More The Joy of Travel articles

About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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