Chinese Christmas Traditions

Brightly colored Chinese lanterns used as Christmas decorations.

In China, Christmas has not always been a publicly celebrated religious holiday, but the country now welcomes the joyous holiday with both religious and secular Chinese Christmas traditions. Christmas is known in China as "Sheng Dan Jieh" or the "Holy Birth Festival."

Because only a small percentage of China's population is Christian, Chinese society has been slow to adopt Christmas, but as the world becomes a more global society, Christmas symbols and celebrations are more visible and prevalent in the country. Christmas decorations in stores and on streets are now a common sight in China, though the general public tends to treat it as a secular or romantic holiday with large gatherings and parties like those that Americans enjoy on New Year's Eve.

Popular Chinese Christmas Traditions

The Chinese New Year falls a few weeks after Christmas each year, and Chinese people who celebrate both holidays enjoy a long and festive winter.

Decorations and Gifts

One of the most popular Chinese Christmas traditions is to hang beautiful paper lanterns indoors, outdoors, and strung around the Christmas tree, which is called "Tree of Light". Families add paper chains and flowers in bright, festive colors to the Christmas tree.

If you live in or near a large American city like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York, you are in luck, because you will find loads of affordable decorations and gifts in your local Chinatown for your Chinese Christmas. If you live near one of these vibrant communities, chain import stores such as Cost Plus and Pier One Imports often have many decorative Chinese and Asian ornaments and gifts at reasonable prices.

You can make your own Chinese Christmas wrapping paper by drawing or painting colorful Chinese characters or pictures of lanterns on the outside.Take time to learn the meaning of the characters so you can let the receipient know what you wrote.

Children in China eagerly hang muslin stockings for Santa Claus (who they call "Dun Che Lao Ren" which means "Christmas Old Man"), to fill them at Christmas. Gift baskets filled with food and other items are always a welcome host or hostess treat when visiting during the holidays.


If your children are of Chinese descent, or if you are just adventurous, you can learn to sing a Western Christmas carol in Chinese together. A modern Chinese rock group, The Twelve Girls, recorded a popular Christmas album that you can buy through Amazon that your children would likely enjoy.


China is the source of some of the world's most delicious food, and you are likely to find a local Chinese restaurant open on Christmas Day, so why not take advantage and celebrate with take out? This is fast becoming a tradition among American families who would rather spend Christmas Day visiting with friends and family than cooking.

You can also try combining Western and Chinese dishes in the same Christmas meal, serving fortune cookies during after-dinner coffee and rice instead of stuffing-something to please everyone at your holiday table.

Blending Traditions

Europe and the Americas have established many of the world's Christmas traditions, with Eastern countries following suit and blending their own customas with those already established by the West. Many cultures and religions observe some of their most significant holidays during late fall and into winter, often merging holidays as families blend and establish their own traditions. Because Chinese Christmas traditions may not be as established as Western Christmas traditions are, you have lots of creative room to start your family's own by combining the best of both worlds. Give the children in your family pleasant memories that embrace global Christianity and that will be treasured for generations to come.

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Chinese Christmas Traditions