Christmas Is Huge in Asia

From India to Thailand to China, even non-Christians are getting into the holiday spirit

Decorations in Thailand. Photo: drburtoni

For many people, Christmas has transcended its roots as a pagan Yule festival and a Christian celebration to become something more—a chance to gather with your loved ones for for food and merriment or, depending on your outlook, for a mass display of consumer culture. And this division of Christmas from its past is all the more clear in places where enthusiasm for the holiday has increased most recently.

Christmas, it seems, is huge in Asia, says Heather Timmons for Quartz. Or, at least the more modern elements of the Christmas tradition are:

“Christmas in India, and Asia in general, has undergone something of a transformation in recent decades, with countries around the region embracing the gift-buying, food, decorations, and singing—pretty much everything but the religious commemoration of the birth of Christ.

Thailand, for example, is 94% Buddhist and 5% Muslim. But many Thais have enthusiastically embraced the Christmas spirit—particularly the more materialistic elements. Despite the fact that it isn’t an official holiday, shopping malls and department stores erect towering, twinkling Christmas trees, and snowmen and candy canes are on display in many shops come late November.”

But what's the draw? LiveScience may have some ideas:
“[W]hy this fixation on partying in midwinter, anyway? According to historians, it's a natural time for a feast. In an agricultural society, the harvest work is done for the year, and there's nothing left to be done in the fields.

"It's a time when you have some time to devote to your religious life," said Shaw. "But also it's a period when, frankly, everyone needs cheering up."

The dark days that culminate with the shortest day of the year—the winter solstice—could be lightened with feasts and decorations, Hutton said.”

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