Many countries in Asia only have a very small Christian population, but some still go all-out on Christmas. This is especially the case in larger cities, and destinations with lots of Western visitors and expat communities.
In some places, 25th December is just an ordinary working day. But in others, it’s marked with truly unique and special traditions. From Taiwan to the Philippines, here’s a brief look at unusual and magical Christmas customs in Asia:
1)Christmasland in Taipei
Only around 1 in 20 people in Taiwan are Christian, but you wouldn’t think so if you visited Taipei in December. In New Taipei City every year, an enormous Christmas festival takes over public spaces. There’s a Christmas market, a festive fair with family-friendly rides, carol singers and the tallest Christmas tree in all of Taiwan. And of course, there are lights and decorations everywhere.
2)Novelty cakes and bakes in Taiwan
When it comes to Christmas-themed bakes and sweet treats, Taiwan has the market cornered. There are all kinds of delicious novelty desserts available from cafes and bakeries, including gingerbread houses, reindeer red-bean buns, Christmas biscuits and snowmen-shaped doughnuts.
Watch out for the annual Christmas Eve sale from Donutes Café and Bakery, which has branches across Taiwan.
3)Decorated mango trees and oil-burning lamps in India
There aren’t a huge number of Christmas celebrations over in India, where only around 2% of people are Christian. But one of the loveliest is the tradition for putting a small, oil-burning clay lamp on the roof of your home, to symbolise Jesus as the light of the world.
Some Indian Christians in South India also decorate mango trees instead of the traditional pine tree.
4)Beautiful handmade ‘parol’ lanterns in the Philippines
It’s safe to say that the Philippines takes Christmas pretty seriously, celebrating from September all the way through to January. At the heart of many family celebrations is the hanging of the parol. This is a star-shaped decorative lantern, designed to represent the star of Bethlehem. The making of these intricate bamboo and rice paper parols has become a respected art form.
5)Christmas lane in Beitou!
Back in Taipei, Taiwan, a fascinating tradition has appeared over the last few years in the district of Beitou. The residents of one lane here decorate their houses for Christmas, and they really go for it! The result is an explosion of festive lights, decorations, fairy lights and even plants – it’s a truly unique sight. You can catch it from the last two weeks in December through to Chinese New Year.
6)KFC in Japan!
Who would have thought that every Christmas, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families tuck into Kentucky Fried Chicken? Such is the popularity of eating KFC in Japan that families have to order it from the fast-food chain weeks in advance to avoid disappointment. The tradition began in 1974, when KFC launched a national marketing campaign known as #Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakki’, or ‘Kentucky for Christmas’.
If you’re not sure where to go or where to see the best sights, we’ll give you your own personal travel concierge. They’ll put together a bespoke itinerary just for you, so you won’t miss a thing.