Since it’s a communist country, the government in China is pretty harsh on Christians. Many who profess their Christian faith are persecuted and forced to accept the superiority of the communist ideology. Churches are often destroyed and there are restrictions on celebrations. Despite such great odds, Christmas is celebrated with much fanfare by the Chinese Christian community.
Chinese Christmas celebrations
“Many people give parties on Christmas Eve, and some people enjoy a big Christmas dinner at a restaurant. Shops sell plastic trees and Christmas decorations for everyone to enjoy, and Santa Claus is a popular good-luck figure. The Christmas season is ushered in with fireworks. Jugglers and acrobats entertain, and people enjoy the merriment and feasting. In Hong Kong, which recently was restored to Chinese rule, Christmas Day is just one of seventeen public holidays,” according to How Stuff Works.
An important tradition on Christmas is the exchange of gifts and cards. The Chinese see it as a good way to strengthen their relationship with loved ones. But unlike in the West, Christmas is not seen as a family affair where all members of the family get together around a table and enjoy a big meal. In China, Christmas is seen more as a ‘couples’ celebration where people invite their partners to enjoy a romantic dinner. The Chinese would prefer to go out to a restaurant rather than stay at home during Christmas.
For Chinese Christians, Christmas outranks even the traditional Chinese New Year in importance. They start preparing various Christmas activities and songs many weeks in advance. Special church services are conducted. Churches are usually packed with the faithful. Dance and drama performances are conducted. On Christmas Eve, the chorus usually sings the Peaceful Evening, a Chinese translation of the popular Christian carol Silent Night. However, you will be hard pressed to see carol singers on the street because of the anti-religious policies of the Chinese Communist Party.
Expats and tourists
With a huge number of Westerners settling in China as professionals and businessmen, Christmas is no longer restricted to a “Chinese alone” event in the country. The expats bring in their own native Christian traditions and mix them with Chinese culture for a very unique take on Christmas.
“Every year our family gets together for a big dinner. And during dinner, there are some traditions, like finding the almond in a big bowl with mashed rice and almonds (Ris à L’Amande). But you leave one whole almond for somebody to find. For me, the food may vary when celebrating Christmas in different places, but the spirit of the festival is always there — that’s family reunion,” Jan Kjaerlund, a business owner in Xiamen, said to China Daily. He is originally from Denmark.
For people touring China, places like Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are ideal destinations to participate in Christmas festivities. Christmas shopping in these cities is a must. You can get some incredible discounts during this period. Hong Kong’s WinterFest has been ranked by CNN as one of the top 10 places to celebrate Christmas.
Since December-end is typically a winding down period of work for the Chinese, hotel and domestic transportation rates tend to be on the lower side. However, international flights to China are usually more expensive because of the large number of overseas workers and students coming home to visit their families.