Asia Celebrates Christmas with a Twist
Summary: Few Asians are Christian but people across the vast continent are embracing the holiday as a great excuse for shopping, partying and even romance.
Come December, Christmas lights brighten shopping streets in cities from Beijing to Colombo, while images of Santa Claus and Rudolph adorn office buildings, shops and restaurants.
Shopping malls in Indonesia, the country with the largest number of Muslims, play carols like Silent Night and Jingle Bells through speakers during the year-end holiday season.
Most workers here are Muslim but we also celebrate Christmas just like we celebrate Eid al-Fitr. We are complementing each other with these costumes and ornaments, said
Jakarta restaurant receptionist Lina Novianti, wearing a red Santa Claus hat. The Moslem celebration Eid al-Fitr marks the end of fasting during Ramadan.
Every year the Indonesian president and top officials attend national Christmas celebrations with church groups.
In China, Christmas Eve has become one of the biggest party nights of the year for young professionals.
Bars, karaoke halls, restaurants, they all get completely packed on Christmas Eve, said Zu Min, who sells Christmas trees and wreaths, More and more Chinese people are buying Christmas trees now.
Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, which already enjoys at least one public holiday each month to celebrate the Buddha's teachings, has also adopted Christmas, Easter, Ramadan and the Hindu festival of lights Deepvali, making it a world leader in days off.
Tinsel has even been put up inside commercial aircraft that fly from mainly Buddhist Colombo to predominantly Hindu Jaffna.
I'm a Buddhist, but we celebrate Christmas because my kids insist on it. We decorate the house and have a Christmas tree so my kids will be happy, said a mother-of-two, laden with gifts.
In Japan, Christmas Eve has taken on a meaning similar to Valentine's Day, being the time for romance among young couples.