How Christmas is Celebrated in China 2021

It’s hard to put a specific label on what Christmas is in China. In most Western nations, little is known about how this traditional Christian/European holiday is celebrated in the PRC.

But, visitors during the Christmas season can find some refreshing holiday joy and cheer.

Is Christmas a holiday in China?

Not exactly.

Most Chinese do not celebrate Christmas. But foreign communities will usually have a range of Christmas social gatherings.

Most individuals in China are also not Christian- in fact. The national religion is atheism. There isn’t a religious prerogative to celebrate Christmas either.

It isn’t even a work holiday for the vast majority of people who live in China. In rural areas and small villages, locals might not even know of Christmas at all.

Nonetheless, Christmas is a sort of unofficial holiday in Mainland China.

How do the Chinese Celebrate Christmas?

Christmas in China tends toward the more commercial. Visitors will notice chain stores like Starbucks and Vanguard. These stores always put up holiday decorations and sell holiday goods.

Small businesses in large cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong, will also have sales, events, and Christmas specials.

Some high-end (4 and 5-star) hotels and restaurants may offer special Christmas feasts, taking place on or around Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Some businesses will have a small party for their employees.

Christmas specials at a shopping mall
Christmas specials at a shopping mall

Christmas Decorations

Decorations are common. Big cities become festooned with LED-covered trees and colorful lights. Many people enjoy the break from the drab monochrome of winter.

You can expect to see big trees, lights, reindeer, and others throughout the country. Santa Claus playing the saxophone is a popular holiday décor.

Many younger Chinese enjoy celebrating, Many younger Chinese enjoy celebrating. Young couples often go out on romantic dates to see the lights and decorations at Christmas time.

Small local businesses will often put up Christmas decorations in December as well. And never take them down. It’s common to see Christmas decorations from the previous year (or years) still festooning doorways and windows in the summer months.

Christmas decorations
Christmas decorations

Christmas is not the same in China.

Other celebrations might include special Christmas events that may have nothing to do with Christmas at all.

These events can range from too many activities to count. For example, having a Secret Santa gift exchange; dressing as Santa, and distributing gifts to the children.

What will foreigners do on Christmas in China?

In Hong Kong, Christmas is one of 17 public holidays, and the city is usually gaily decorated. Many expats who live in Mainland China will venture to Hong Kong for the holidays to get their desired allotment of Christmas cheer.

The Foreign Community

Most foreigners working in China have at least 1 day (Christmas Day) off. Many Chinese people will join the foreign community for celebrations and events. People will get together for potlucks, social gatherings, and feasts offered by restaurants and hotels.

The odds of finding a big foreign community with many Christmas events correlate to the size of the city you are in. As well as how international it is - Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong have by far the most going on at Christmas time.

Christmas Gifts in China

Gift-giving has always been popular in China (E.G. Hongbao, or red envelopes). But they are usually done for Chinese holidays and special occasions, rather than Christmas.

Giving gifts for Christmas is much more commonly celebrated among foreigners living in China. University/college students may hold some activities and exchange apples on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Food in China

There are no particular foods that signify Christmas for the vast majority of Chinese, as most don’t celebrate it.

Although milk and chocolate are becoming common and reasonably priced. However, within China, other Western holiday food ingredients are not available or are expensive. Turkey is hard to come by.

The Western food that has caught on in China, like cake, has been thoroughly localized. You can find green tea-flavored cake, as well as chocolate and vanilla cakes topped with cherry tomatoes.

The best bet for a traditional Christmas feast is to pay attention to foreign restaurants, bars, and high-end hotels. They will have a (usually) pricey range of holiday eats that you can find in the West.

Turkey is hard to come by in China.
Turkey is hard to come by in China.

How to Spend Your Christmas Holiday in China

It is a low travel season in December in China, so it is a good time to escape the travel crowds. See below the top destinations to spend your Christmas holiday in China. 

Hong Kong and Macau

These two cities are special administrative reasons- you don’t even need a Chinese visa to visit them. Both are former colonies of Western countries (Macau is a Portuguese colony and Hong Kong is a British). Their cultures are more cosmopolitan and Christmas friendly.

In these cities, it will be easy to find Christmas markets, big feasts and events, and Christmas food in grocery stores.

Special activities in Hong Kong include Christmas celebrations at Disney World, lighting of the Christmas lights, and fireworks.

Disney World on Christmas
Disney World on Christmas

Shanghai

There are multiple Christmas markets in Shanghai, numerous Christian churches with Christmas services, as well as one of China’s biggest foreign communities.

Shanghai boasts more community charity events, as well as a much larger assortment of buffets and dinners at hotels and expat bars than you can find in most cities in China.

Beijing

Beijing is a populous cosmopolitan city. Many international workers, executives, business owners, diplomats, and more live there. So it has a much heavier international influence than much of China.

Sure, most Chinese will work on Christmas or do little to nothing to celebrate it personally, but there is plenty to do.

Christmas markets and sales abound. Many malls and shopping centers have longer hours and lower prices. Be ready for the crowds.

Find more best cities to celebrate Christmas in China

santa Claus at Gubei Water Town in Beijing
Santa Claus at Gubei Water Town in Beijing

Where to Have Christmas Dinner

You can find a Christmas feast at the Hilton, the Shangri-La, the Four Seasons, and other 4 and 5-star hotels. Below, we have also listed some special, less-known foreign restaurants. They have special Christmas meals and events.

Shanghai

Shanghai is a foodie’s paradise. There are too many restaurants with Christmas offerings to list.

So here are a few stand-outs: Wudeng Road (武定路), Fengshan Road (衡山路), and Fumin Road (富民路). All have multiple foreign bars offering Christmas gatherings and special Christmas menus.

Beijing

Macau

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is both international and loaded with high-end Hotel chains. Visitors here can expect to have more food options than any other city in China. Maybe even more than any other city in Asia.

Have a merry Christmas, no matter where you are.

Continue to read Top 10 Festivals Celebrated in China

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