How does China celebrate Christmas?

Christmas decorations outside the World Trade Center in Beijing

Staying in China this Christmas? Read on to find out a bit more about what to expect!

Christmas is not celebrated at all by the vast majority of Chinese, since only 1% of Chinese are Christian and most aren’t influenced that much by Western culture.However, young children might learn about it in their English classes, and in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai young people sometimes celebrate. Western culture is more accessible there, and of course, it’s fashionable! This means that Christmas is a holiday for hanging out with your friends or partner, not your family. Young people might shop, go for a meal together (though not a traditional Christmas meal as most of those foods are virtually unheard of in China) or sing karaoke. 
Shopping malls and supermarkets are the most festive places, and many have Christmas trees, but because they’re seen more as general decorations rather than specifically for Christmas, they often stay up for Chinese New Year and beyond!
Interestingly, there is one unusual Christmas tradition unique to China… giving apples! 

In Chinese culture, it is common for auspicious meanings to be given to items that sound similar to lucky words. For example, in Chinese, the word for blessings is ‘fu’ (福) and the word for bat (蝠) is also pronounced ‘fu’. Therefore, bats are a lucky symbol.

The same has happened with Christmas Eve. In Chinese, it is called ‘Ping’An Ye’ (平安夜), which means ‘peaceful evening’. Apples are called ‘pingguo’ (苹果), so because they sound similar they’ve taken on a lucky meaning for that day. You can buy gift-wrapped apples in some supermarkets and fruit shops in the major cities where Christmas is celebrated. Some farmers even put a kind of stencil on the apple so that a festive decorative design forms on the apple as it grows!

The design on this apple says ‘Merry Christmas’! (圣诞快乐). Photo: Xinhua/Twitter

So if you’re new to China and celebrating your first Christmas here, be prepared for it to be a bit different to at home! However you’re celebrating, a very merry Christmas from us here at Cultural Keys!



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Are you interested in learning more about the traditional culture of China, and perhaps experiencing it for yourself?  Since 2013, Cultural Keys Chinese Culture Centre has been helping people doing exactly that.

Through our provision of content, classes, information and services, Cultural Keys helps people access, understand and experience the traditional culture of China, from kung fu to calligraphy, feng shui to painting. Click here to read more about Cultural Keys and what we can do for you, your school, company or organisation to help you get more out of your time in China.

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