In South East Asia, countries like Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand have their fair share of Christian populations. Christians residing in this region celebrate Christmas in their own unique way, borrowing heavily from their own customs and traditions. The most identified symbols of the festival, nevertheless, remain the same as in the western countries. It is common to sight elaborately decorated Christmas tress and traditional delicacies in the households. Read on to know more about Christmas traditions in Southeast Asia.
Christmas Celebrations In Southeast Asia
Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia with Christianity as its main religion. Here, Christmas celebrations begin nine days before the festival. A mass known as Misa de Gallo is held, which marks the beginning of the festive celebrations. A Biblical story relating to the birth of Christ is read at the mass. The Panunuluyan pageant is held in the evening, in which a couple is chosen to enact the story of Joseph and Mary searching for shelter. The mass is held every hour on Christmas, so that maximum people can attend it. Old tribal customs, such as serenading cumbancheros and strolling minstrels, are also observed.
In Vietnam, Christmas is one of the four important festivals. Many Vietnamese natives became Christian converts during the French rule and ever since, the festive occasion is celebrated with much enthusiasm in the country. Vietnamese attend the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. After the mass is over, they return home and enjoy the Christmas supper. Chicken soup, turkey and pudding are the famous foods. The other things identified with Christmas, like Santa Claus and Christmas tree, have also become popular with children over time. Kids leave their shoes outside on Christmas Eve, hoping that Santa will leave gifts for them.
In Thailand, the Christmas celebrations are a different from the western world, as
December 25 is not recognized as a holiday in the country. Offices, colleges and universities remain open on Christmas. However, people celebrate the festival with much enthusiasm. Children dress up in vibrant colors and fancy dresses and most of the schools make the day special by arranging for various activities and games. Prizes are also awarded to winners. Children are made to sing Christmas hymns and carols. The Christian families decorate and embellish their homes, cook special meals and invite guests for dinner. Drinking, eating & merrymaking are the characteristics of festive celebrations for Christian natives of Thailand.
In Indonesia, Christmas is a very popular festival, as around 8% of the Indonesians are Christians. Some Muslim clerics have voiced angst over the celebrations of a Christian festival in a predominantly Muslim country. However, enthusiasts and believers have continued to celebrate the festival since long. Sale of turkeys, cranberry sauce, tropical pine trees, and other Christmas goodies in the western-oriented supermarket chains in Indonesia is seen around Christmas. The Christian community of Indonesia also organizes charity functions during the Christmas period. Huge Christmas trees are also decorated.