If you go to certain Southeastern countries like Singapore or Japan for the holidays, and if you go to Western countries like the United States and Canada for the holidays, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference due to the acculturation of Westernized Christmas traditions. The following is your guide to Christmas across Southeast Asia.
For such a small island, the Christmas spirit is certainly very prominent and widespread. Christmas here is celebrated less as a religious holiday and more of a commercial and secular celebration occupied by eating and shopping with family and friends. Orchard Road, Singapore's famous shopping district, gets decked out with dazzling lights and serves as a transparent reminder to go shopping. The Christmas spirit is also spread across the island through pop up holiday menus at restaurants and fake snow!
Christmas is a public holiday in Hong Kong. This island was a British colony until 1997, and the Western influence is definitely still felt throughout life, especially during Christmas. There are large Christmas trees everywhere and lit lights strewn along the streets. Every year, there is a 'Winterfest,' a huge winter party that involves the shops, theme parks, and other attractions of Hong Kong, which literally lights up the island.
Since more than 80 percent of Filipinos claim to be Roman Catholic, Christmas is celebrated throughout the country as a religious holiday. They start the countdown to Christmas as early as September, lasting into January, making it one of the longest celebrations of Christmas in the world. Christmas traditions in the Philippines are a mixture of western and native Filipino traditions, so it's normal to see Santa Claus, Christmas carols, and Christmas ornaments in this country. Meanwhile, their own Christmas traditions include hanging up their unique lighted star lantern made from bamboo strips called 'parol.'
Christmas celebrations in Japan include usual Christian traditions without its religious meanings since only one percent of its population are actually Christians. Their Christmas decorations include all the long-established elements: the Nativity scene, the Christmas trees, the mistletoe. Meanwhile, they also have their own traditional spin on Christmas; their Santa Claus is called Hoteiosho, a Buddhist monk who bears gifts for children and who is believed to be a jolly and happy soul.
Christmas here is celebrated more here than in other Asian countries like China since Christians make up about 25 to 30 percent of the population. Christmas is an official public holiday, with churches decorated with lights, trees adorned with glittering luminescence, and department stores putting on dazzling light displays. Unlike Singapore, Christmas in South Korea is primarily a religious holiday and less an excuse for shopping; families still put up Christmas trees and people exchange presents, but they'll also attend mass or a church service on Christmas Day.