Christmas in Asia

Figure 1.--.

Celebrating Christ's birth for Christians presented a problem in that no one knows when Jesus was born. It almost certainly was not December. Christmas is celebrated on December 25 throughout Christendom, as the birth of Christ primarily because of the importance of Saturnalia, the ancient Roman festival in honor of Saturn the god of Agriculture, in Roman culture. Besides adopting some of the feartures of Saturnalia, there are many non-religious customs and practices which have developed over the years. These customs are in many cases peculiar to different countries. Germany has played an especially important role, in part because of the Christams traditions Prince Albert brought from Germany when he married Queen Victoria, many of which have since been past on to America. Many modern Christmas traditions are based on these English Victorian traditions. Here are the many Christmas traditions we knpow of around the world. Asiais the continent leat penetrated by Christianity. Thus Christmas is not a major occassion in most Asian countries. We hope that HBC readers will tell us something about Christmas traditions in their countries.


India is a predominatly Hindu country with a substantial Muslim minority. There are much smaller numbers of different religions, including Christianity. Christma celebraions are amazingly diverse in India, in large measure beciause of the country's great diversity. Therecare substantial regional differences. Indians are an amaklgum of many different ethniciries, cultures, and languages. Christianity in India is primarily a culturakl imprint of the British Raj, although Portugal and France have left Catholic traditions. Indians celebrate Christmas with all the gaiety, color, and devotion f a Hindu festival. Most Indian Christians begin to celebrate on Chrismas Eve (December 24) and continued until New Years. Masses are held to celebrate Jesus' birth. Most Western Christmas traditins can be found in India, including carols, cakes, candles and decorating trees. There are many local accomodations. Raher than evergreens, bananas plants, palms, or other tropical folliage may be used. Thus while many European Christmas traditions can be replicated, Only the weather can not be replicated.


Japan appears to have adopted manu secular Christmas symbols to use as marketing tools.


The Chrristian churches played an important role in Lorea's nationalist resistance to Japan in the early 20th century. Thus Korea is one of the few Asian countries with an important Christian community.


Tajikistan is a majority muslim nation. there is also a substantial Russian minority, many of whom are Christians. During the Soviet era both Chridstiamity and Islam were upressed. The Soiviets promoted Grandfather Frost to replace St. Nicholas. As grandfather Frost was a secular figure he was embraced by atheist, Christin, and Islamic children. Since Tajikistan emerged from the Soviet Union as an independent stat, Grndfather Frost is incresingly being referred to as Santa Clause. He is very much alive as the bringer of presents but not on December 25. It seems here its January 1 in keeping with Soviet practices. Much is made of the New Year. Greeting cards bear New Year blessings. There is a story of Grand Father Frost coming with a Fairy to bring gifts. There is a Fir Tree decorated with lights and presents under it. Santa Claus is named as Grand Father Frost. He wears a blue Costume in some pictures and a red one in others. He has a big sack and gives presents to children. A HBC contributor writes, "Yours truely is considered to have the statue to be this person. On 26 December, dressed in my red robe and colourful sash I visit the school. First however we are supposed to be going to the snow in the mountains to film a video of Grand Father Frost in the snow coming." [Fergusson]


Fergusson, William. E-mail, December 14, 2003.


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Created: December 27, 1998
Last updated: 1:05 AM 12/29/2008