For many of us, Christmas is the most special holiday of the year. And for good reason because it’s full of lots of wonderful things like family, roast potatoes, mince pies and presents. So it’s odd to remember that for a lot of countries it’s just a normal day where people go to work and do their shopping.

If you are wondering whether Chinese celebrate Christmas the answer is yes and no.

Mainland China doesn’t officially celebrate Christmas. However, due to the influence of Western media and Western colonies parts of China have begun celebrating their own version of Christmas.

Santa Claus in China

It is fair to say that Santa Claus is much more focal in a Chinese Christmas than Jesus. The archetype of the jolly old man has been fully embraced by lots of China. When out at shopping malls you may find him with his sister helpers (not elves) giving out presents to kids.

The Chinese call Santa Claus sheng dan lao ren, which translates to Old Christmas Man.

Although about 5% of China is Christian you won’t see or hear a lot of the Christian traditions of Christmas like carol singing and nativity scenes. China is a predominantly atheist country and a lot of religious practices like these are often dissuaded or banned by the government because they consider them in competition with Chinese values.

Christmas shopping

Christmas and shopping kind of goes hand in hand. Around Christmas time in China there are lots of sales and people do a lot of shopping. In the big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai shopping centers will have lots of Christmas decorations, Christmas music and a big Christmas tree.

Chinese Christmas Food

To the relief of many of you, it is unlikely you’ll find Brussels sprouts being served at Christmas time in China. For most Chinese people Christmas doesn’t involve the classic dinner of roast turkey and all the trimmings.

Chinese people are more likely to eat foods connected with Chinese New Year like roast pork and dumplings. But for many a simple meal with friends or a few beers at a karaoke bar is what they’ll get up to.

Honk Kong and Macau

Honk Kong and Macau are independently governed parts of China. They celebrate Christmas in a much bigger way than mainland China and have it is an official holiday.

The reason they do it differently to most of China is that they were once European colonies so they have a lot more European citizens and Western cultural heritage. They only get one day off though because Boxing Day didn’t make it over there.

How to say Happy Christmas in Chinese?

To say Happy Christmas, or Merry Christmas, in Chinese you say shèng dàn kuài lè! Kuài lè meaning ‘happy’ and shèng dàn meaning ‘Christmas’.