Christmas in Asia

A Christmas tree sweltering in 30ºC weather outside a Bangkok Mall

These days it’s not unusual to see Christmas decorations going up right around the time the Halloween decorations come down. As the malls start playing carols and trees start going up, those in western countries might think they have a clear monopoly on the celebration of Christmas. But maybe not.

It may surprise you, but some of the most colourful and over-the-top Christmas celebrations you can find are in Asia. Although most people think of lush mountain treks, steamy markets, or sunbaked sand and blue water, truth is, many of Asia’s biggest cities – especially those that cater to tourists – give Christmas their full attention.

For westerners, Christmas is a holiday borne out of religion and nurtured by family, travel, and special traditions that include everything from food to music to mistletoe. But for Asians – most of whom are Buddhist – Christmas is about lights, sound, colour, decoration, fun – and not a small amount of photos.

Of course, for westerners from colder climes, the most shocking thing might be standing in the shadow of a palm tree while framing the perfect shot of a (fake) Christmas tree, all the while trying to ignore how hot it is.

In cities with a large concentration of tourist-friendly malls, Christmas in Asia is inescapable. In Singapore, shoppers can spend literally hours walking from mall to interconnected mall without ever stepping foot outside. In Bangkok, Central World proudly displays an outdoor Christmas landscape that includes a tree over a dozen meters tall. In Ho Chi Minh City, the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral and area around the Central Post Office are especially nice to wander and take pictures.

The great thing about it is the quaint innocence with which it all goes down. Christmas carols are played, but more for their peppy tone than any lyrical significance. Fake snow is sometimes sprayed into window corners, but it’s not really clear why when it’s 32°C. And like we mentioned earlier – you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone not taking selfies with the lights and decorations. For instance, one prominent display along Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Road this year includes hundreds of 3-foot high Snoopy statues with Santa hats. Why? Because Christmas in Asia.

Not enough? How about this – just a few weeks ago Bangkok set a world record for having the largest amount of elves gather in a single place! It took 1,792 kids to do it, but it was done, and even certified by Guinness.

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Sure, if you get away from the malls you’ll probably struggle to find any candy canes or star-topped pine trees, but if it’s carols and holiday cheer you want, Asia sure knows how to put on a show. And if you tire of the merriment, the beach is never too far away.

The team at Smiling Albino wishes you all very happy holidays, safe travels and lots of festive cheer!