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.

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.

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