SERIES Discover the Christmas traditions from around the world (4/5)

Christmas is just around the corner! It’s the perfect time to have a look at how different cultures celebrate Christmas in each of the five continents around the world.

Asia🎉

Japan

Rather than gathering around the table for a turkey dinner, families head out to their local Kentucky Fried Chicken🐔. The tradition began in 1974 after a wildly successful marketing campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” 

A KFC on Christmas Eve

China

Join the tradition of giving apples 🍎🍏. Ever wonder why you may have been receiving them from Chinese friends and co-workers this Christmas? Over the past decade, gifting apples on Christmas Eve has become so popular in China that the price of the fruit has actually risen dramatically every December 24. But why apples? The tradition is rooted in homophones. In Mandarin, ‘Christmas Eve’ translates to Ping’anye (平安夜, the evening of peace), which also happens to sound a bit like the Chinese word for ‘apple’ or pingguo (苹果). Chinese people have gone one step further and given a special name to these Christmas apples: ping’anguo (平安果), or ‘peace apples.’ Usually wrapped in boxes or colorful paper and decorated with cartoons, ribbons or even Christmas messages printed on their skin, peace apples can sometimes be up to twice as expensive as your standard apples.

The Philippines

Every year, the city of San Fernando organises Ligligan Parul (or Giant Lantern Festival) featuring dazzling parols (lanterns) that symbolize the Star of Bethlehem🎇. Each parol consists of thousands of spinning lights that illuminate the night sky. The festival has made San Fernando the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.”

Bali

In Bali, the Balinese decorate the streets with ‘Penjors’ which have also been called the Bali Christmas tree🎄. These are  curved bamboo poles that are decorated with coconut leaves and rice plant branches.  They are curved to symbolise  the highest and most sacred mountain in Bali and for that reason these decorations can be made as tall as 10 metres! At the centre of these trees is a cage known as ‘Sanggah Chuck’ designed for holding the offerings. In the spirit of Christmas, the fabrication of Penjors is a bonding experience within the family as loved ones come together to assemble it and then mount it in front of their houses. It is said that the trees bring safety and wealth as it praises Hyang Giri Path the God of the Mountains. Penjor are erected outside Balinese Hindu homes for Galungan, one of the most important religious ceremonies in Bali, which is celebrated roughly twice a year, every 210 days.

China

Ever wondered why the Chinese version of Santa Claus almost always plays a saxophone🎷? The most popular theory seems to be that Santa is perceived as Western, cool, and a bit romantic, so the saxophone, also of Western origin, fits well with Santa’s image. It seems like reason enough for the Chinese to lump the two together. Christmas in China is more about having fun with friends or a romantic date than it is about reverence and family as in the Western world. 

And you? How do you celebrate Christmas in your country?

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