Christmas in China is
called Sheng Dan Jieh which means the "Holy Birth Festival."Although
some parts of China have celebrated Christmas for over 400 years,
less than one percent of China's population is Christian, so Christmas
as we know it is not widely observed.
The Chinese Christmas
tree is called "the tree of light" and the Chinese like
to decorate it with bright colors. They use holly berries and colorful
Chinese lanterns. The children hang muslin stockings for Santa,
or Dun Che Lau Ren (Christmas Old Man) as he is known in China,
and he leaves toys in them on Christmas morning. Our Christmas tree
is decorated with authentic Chinese ornaments, many borrowed from
At Christmas, the Chinese
exchange gifts but these presents must be in accordance with other
Chinese traditions. Silks, jewels and valuable gifts may be given
only to immediate family members. Christmas Day in China is celebrated
with a marvelous display of fireworks.
But the big holiday celebration
in China is the Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year is based
on the lunar calendar, which has a 12-year cycle. Chinese tradition
of naming the year after an animal comes from a story about Buddha.
Buddha once staged a gala celebration and invited hundreds of guests,
but the only ones who appeared were 12 different animals. To honor
the animals for their courtesy in attending, Buddha named a year
for each of them.
Days before the New Year,
every family cleans their home, in hopes of sweeping away all the
ill-fortune there may have been in the family and to make way for
the wishful in-coming good luck. On the Eve of the New Year a feast
is served. After eating, the whole family stays up waiting for the
new year. Every light is supposed to remain on until midnight and
at that time the sky lights up with fireworks.