China Expat Life

Christmas in China

In recent years, the Christmas tradition as we know it has been slowly gaining popularity here in China. However, most people in China do not celebrate as people do in the West. In fact, most Chinese people do not celebrate Christmas at all, it’s not even a public holiday!

No, puppies aren’t a part of Christmas in China

But don’t get too disheartened, on the streets and in department stores, there are Christmas trees, lights, and decorations. You’ll hear Christmas music playing over the noise of the crowds shopping for Christmas season promotions. And Starbucks start handing out our favourite festive cups!

How to Enjoy Christmas as an Expat in China

christmas in china

In Chinese Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Sheng Dan Kuai Le’ in Mandarin. Christmas in China is a time when the friends you have made become your family! Generally, people gather in someone’s apartment, make a big meal with as much of the regular Christmas food as they can, and enjoy all the food, drinks and games!

Shops such as Walmart will sell your Christmas decorations, tree and fairy lights. Online shopping, all hail Taobao, is increasingly the cheapest was to get your tree and decorations, or even a turkey delivered to your door!

Christmas Gifts in China

Generally, gifts are not given at Christmas in China, except among expats. There is no tradition of waiting for Christmas Day to open presents. Here at York though, each school does Secret Santa, and we take it very seriously….!

However, a tradition that’s becoming popular on Christmas Eve is giving apples. Many stores have apples wrapped up in coloured paper for sale. People give apples on Christmas Eve because in Chinese Christmas Eve is called “Ping’an Ye“, meaning peaceful or quiet evening. The word for apple in Mandarin is “píngguǒ” which sounds like the word for peace.

The apples are sold with messages printed on the skin in Chinese, such as love and peace.

Chinese Christians — How They Celebrate

China’s Christians (only 1% of the population officially) generally celebrate Christmas religiously, attendance at midnight mass is quite popular.

On Christmas Eve in the churches, you can generally find a choir performing and maybe even a nativity performance. Christmas Eve is called ‘Peaceful Evening’ as mentioned earlier (Ping’an Ye 平安夜 from the translation of the carol “Silent Night”).

Travel in China at Christmas Time

If you’re truly looking for the ultimate festive feeling, Hong Kong delivers the best Christmas atmosphere around. If you venture north as well, you could enjoy skiing around Beijing and the start of the Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin.

Places such as Shanghai & Hong Kong Disneyland also offer a great day out with their Christmas performances, decorations, music, trees and even fake snow!

It’s generally much cheaper to travel over Christmas here in China than in the West, as it’s not an official holiday, and therefore out of season, and cheaper travel is always good news.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at York English!

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