How Does China Celebrate Christmas Eve?

The annual Christmas Eve falls on December 24th this year. Have you already picked up your favorite gifts for your family or friends? Christmas Eve indicates the culmination of the Advent period before the Christmas Day. Nowadays, Christmas in most western parts of the world is a festival to reunite families, express condolences to relatives and friends, and send cordial care and comfort to those loneliness. But do you know how people in China celebrate Christmas Eve?

Many parts of the world celebrate Christmas as a Christian tradition memorizing Jesus Christ’s birth. However, as is estimated, only 3% – 5% of the Chinese population is Christian. Thus, people observe Christmas more as a Valentine’s Day or shopping and feasting season rather than a Christian holiday. Normally, lighthearted young people would go out watching movies, feasting, and shopping on the festive holiday with their cherished fellows and exchange meaningful gifts. And the large shopping malls or commercial complex attract Christmas aficionado with seasonal sales and Christmas carols. Everything is just in festive mood!

There are several differences in celebrating Christmas Eve between the western and eastern countries. For example, in most English-speaking countries, people greet each other when meet, “Merry Christmas!”. While people would say ”圣诞快乐” or “Sheng Dan Kuai Le” in Mandarin Chinese, which expresses the same meaning. Also, Chinese people call Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) “圣诞老人” or “Sheng Dan Lao Ren”. Christmas Eve is called “平安夜” or “Ping An Ye”, conveying sincere wishes for a peaceful or silent night. There are no special activities on Christmas Eve, but giving apples decorated with colorful papers to family or friends is especially popular among Chinese youngsters. The apple is regarded as the Ping An Guo (平安果), a symbol of the peaceful night.

Besides, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is not a public or national holiday in China. Consequently, Chinese people will not have several days off during the Christmas season. Additionally, you can see a big Christmas tree with the shining big star on the top in many shopping malls or pedestrian streets, but fewer people have a Christmas tree at home decorated with various gifts. If some families do have a Christmas tree, it is usually a plastic one decorated with LED light strings, paper flowers, or little gifts.

In big cities like Beijing or Shanghai, there may be SantaCons. However, in rural China’s remote areas, people may not even hear of Christmas, let alone hold any Christmas-related activities.

Although China does not hold any large-scale Christmas activities, one strange thing is that about 60% of the Christmas decorations in the world are manufactured in Yiwu, a small town in South China’s Zhejiang province. This town is not only the main source of the world Christmas decorations, but also is famous for its affordable wholesale goods, like clothes, home appliances, toys, etc.

This year’s Christmas Eve is just around the corner! If you are interested in or curious about Christmas activities with Chinese characteristics, welcome to China and experience it yourself!