It is the third-largest Catholic country in the world and celebrates Christmas with great zeal. Christmas celebrations in the Philippines begin from September and continue till Christmas. The markets and streets are decorated so breathtakingly and the festive ambiance will ensure that you are filled with the spirit of the Yuletide.
The best thing about the Philippines at Christmas is the Giant Lantern Festival. It is held in the beautiful city of San Fernando. A 9-day series called ‘Simbang Gabi’ is one of the major highlights of the festival that witnesses the participation of the entire nation with great exuberance.
Christianity is not widespread in the country, so Christmas is celebrated more in a commercial form. Japanese people eat a “Christmas cake” which is a sponge cake with whipped cream and some fruit as toppings. Instead of Santa Claus, there is “Hoteiosho,” an old man with a big sack and eyes in the back of his head, which is why children have to behave when he is around. Gift exchanges usually take place between couples on Christmas Eve, which is more celebrated than Christmas Day.
Christmas Eve is seen more like a romantic day, parallel to Valentine’s Day. A popular meal to eat is fried chicken, with fast food companies such as KFC allowing people to place their orders in advance. Christmas-themed parties also lead up to the huge Shogatsu New Year celebration.
Out of all the countries in the world, Singapore boasts the highest number of foreign residents. It is no surprise that these expats throw Christmas parties and do some seasonal decorating. Although Singapore is predominantly ethnic Chinese, Christmas is still celebrated widely, albeit in a more secular manner. Malls will be decorated and vivid lights adorn the length of Orchard Road. Christmas is also observed as a public holiday in neighboring Malaysia.
Over 90 % of the Thai population are Buddhist. Buddhism is tolerant of all other religions, including Christianity, and this religious tolerance is part of the reason why a major Christian festival such as Christmas can also be enjoyed by Buddhists in Thailand. Also a concept of Sanuk and enjoyment is very fundamental part of Thai culture.
Thai people like to party and so any excuse for a celebration is gleefully seized upon. The religious meaning of Christmas is not important to most Thai people, but they know it is a time when other countries are celebrating and they are happy to join in with the party. The King’s birthday on the 5th of December is the biggest holiday at the end of the year, where celebrations can continue until the end of the month!
Christmas is usually another work day, with celebrations held as a private affair between families and friends. Young couples will often celebrate the holiday more with gift exchanges between couples. A tradition that is becoming popular is the giving of apples on Christmas Eve. The word for apple in Mandarin, píngguǒ, sounds like the word for peace, which is similar to the translation of Christmas Eve, Ping’an Ye, meaning peaceful or quiet evening.