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How Chinese People Celebrate Christmas & BONUS Chinese Christmas Vocab List

圣诞节快乐 (Shèngdàn jié kuàilè) – Merry Christmas! 

It’s only a month till Christmas – are you feeling excited yet? Due to supply chain shortages and the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, families have been racing to buy festive essentials in the West. The hunt for Christmas trees, gifts, toys for kids, food, etc., has started. 

Have you ever wondered how people celebrate Christmas in an Asian country like China? 

Let’s find out!

Do people celebrate Christmas in China? 

The short answer is yes and no. Since China is officially an atheist state, most Chinese people don’t really care about Christmas. In Mainland China, Christmas is not a public holiday. But if you’re in Hong Kong or Macau, you’ll get a two-day public holiday and celebrate in a more traditional Western way, as these territories are more influenced by the UK and Portugal. 

However, Christmas celebrations are becoming more popular in China in different ways. In major cities throughout the country, it’s now viewed as a marketing opportunity and commercial event. You can see shopping malls and streets filled with Christmas decorations, giant Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and classic Christmas music played all day long, hoping to attract more customers.

Schools, hotels, or business organizations also join in the festivities, decorating offices and classrooms and holding parties to join in the international holiday occasion.

The festive atmosphere covers every corner of every major city in China, just like any Western nation. But again, the celebration has nothing to do with religious belief. 

Chinese Christmas is more like a Valentine’s Day 

Unlike Western countries, where Christmas is about family gatherings, Chinese people tend to go out with their friends, go shopping, spend time at the cinema or sing along in karaoke clubs. 

Young couples see Christmas as a special and romantic day to exchange gifts and express their love for each other. Restaurants will usually offer romantic dinner specials and Christmas-themed promotions, while gift shops will be stocked with heart-shaped chocolates, flowers, and teddies. 

Chinese Christmas is also considered the biggest sale season of the year. You’ll find department stores always busy, full of customers taking advantage of the massively discounted prices.  

Special tradition: People give each other apples on Christmas Day

It’s not traditional in China to give Christmas cards or gifts. Instead, they give apples! Why is that, you ask? 

This custom was born out of the similar sound between the Chinese phrase for Christmas Eve, 平安夜 (píng ān yè), meaning a peaceful evening and the Chinese word for ‘apple’ is 苹果 (píngguǒ). Due to this, Chinese people started giving red apples to their families and friends on Christmas Eve. 

You can find apples wrapped in decorative paper or boxes displayed and sold everywhere. 

Chinese people also print little messages saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Peace,’ or ‘Love’ on the apples, as eating an apple on Christmas Eve will bring you a safe, loving, and peaceful year.

So, if you’re planning to spend Christmas time in China, remember to get apples for your loved ones! 

How Chinese People Celebrate Christmas & BONUS Chinese Christmas Vocab List
Source: The Mirror

Chinese people don’t decorate their homes

In contrast to the festive decorations in public, Chinese people don’t really put up a Christmas tree or ornaments in their houses. If they do have a tree, it will be a tree of light. This is generally an artificial one with paper chains, flowers, and lanterns.

It’s quite ironic as Chinese factories produce most of the world’s Christmas goodies, from fairy lights to those little plastic bells hanging on your tree. There’s a high chance that your Christmas decorations at home were made in China! 

What about Chinese Christians? How do they celebrate Christmas? 

It’s estimated that around 2.5 % of the Chinese population are Christians, and they do celebrate Christmas in a Western Christian style. They attend special church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They go to see choral, dance, and drama performances put on by their church congregations.

As previously said, China is an atheist country and does not fully support the freedom of religion. As a result, Chinese Christians are subject to religious restrictions; for example, they are not permitted to pray or sing religious carols in public.

Christmas stays controversial in China 

The Christmas holiday spirit is growing in popularity in China, yet not everyone agrees with this trend. The festival, according to nationalists, is a tool of foreign imperialism and a threat to China’s own customs. They want to abandon westernized festivals in favor of preserving their own culture.

However, most Chinese people regard Christmas Day as just a commercial season or a special occasion to get together with friends and do not pay attention to the traditional Christian message. 

Chinese vocab list: Top 20 Christmas words you should know!

Let’s take a look and learn the most common 20 Chinese words about Christmas to make sure you’re still building your Chinese vocabulary, even during the holiday season! 

No. WordPinyinMeaning 
1圣诞节shèng dàn jiéChristmas Day 
2平安夜/圣诞节前夕píng ān yè/shèng dàn jié qián xīChristmas Eve
3圣诞老人 shèng dàn lǎo rénSanta Claus
4雪人 xuě rénSnowman
5圣诞树shèng dàn shùChristmas tree 
6天使 tiān shǐAngel
7拐杖糖 guǎi zhàng tángCandy cane
8烟囱 yān cōngChimney
9驯鹿 xùn lùReindeer
10圣诞节用的装饰物品 shèng dàn jié yòng de zhuāng shì wù pǐnChristmas ornaments/decorations 
11圣诞卡 shèng dàn kǎChristmas card 
12铃铛 líng dāngJingle bells
13槲寄生hú jì shēngMistletoe 
14包装纸 bāo zhuāng zhǐWrapping paper
15圣诞礼物 shèng dàn lǐ wùChristmas gift/present
16耶稣基督 yē sū jī dūJesus Christ
17雪橇铃 xuě qiāo língSleigh bells 
18圣诞大餐 shèng dàn dà cānChristmas feast/dinner
19花环 huā huánWreath
20壁炉 bì lúFireplace

You can also check our useful tips to learn Chinese fast and effectively. Let’s get yourself well-prepared before special occasions!

Chinese is fun to learn! 

The Chinese language can be complicated. But it’s also unique, fascinating, and fun to learn, too!

Pandanese is a web-based Chinese Mandarin learning platform that helps users master up to 6,000 Hanzi characters per year, alongside other interesting Chinese culture knowledge. Subscribe to the Pandanese blog to get Chinese language learning tips and guides to Chinese culture.

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