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East Asia


China is in the eastern part of Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam.

Santa claus in China Christians in China celebrate by lighting their houses with beautiful paper lanterns and decorating their Christmas trees, which they call "Trees of Light," with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns. Department stores advertise the season with Santa figures that reach three and four stories high.

Chinese Children hang muslin stockings and await a visit from Santa Claus, whom they call Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run) which means "Christmas Old Man."

People in a cathedral in Christmas in ChinaThere are an estimated four million people in China who are Christian. This is a very small percentage compared to the overall population of the nation. They worship at small churches and in huge cathedrals such as the Nantang Cathedral in Beijing shown here.

Christian missionaries first arrived in in Xian, the ancient capital and cradle of Chinese civilization, in 625.

In 1999, a nativity scene, made from wood and plaster circa A.D. 780, was found on a shadowy wall of a crumbling 1,200-year-old pagoda on the windswept hillside of a Tao monastery near the ancient capital city.

The nativity scene combines Chinese landscape imagery with the reclining figure of the Madonna, according to Martin Palmer, the British scholar who found it. While badly eroded, the towering wall sculpture is clearly not a Chinese creation but a fascinating meld of Eastern and Western spirituality.

Since the vast majority of the Chinese people are not Christian, the main winter festival in China is the Chinese New Year which takes place toward the end of January. Now officially called the "Spring Festival," it is a time when children receive new clothing, eat luxurious meals, receive new toys, and enjoy firecracker displays.

An important aspect of the New Year celebration is the worship of ancestors. Portraits and paintings of ancestors are brought out and hung in the main room of the home.

Japan is an east Asian island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula.

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There is no official celebration of Christmas in Japan as less than one percent of the population is Christian. There is an unofficial widespread secular observance of Christmas due to the influence of Americans after the war and Japan's Christmas industry that provides decorations and trinkets for Christian nations.

As the Christmas industry grew, it was natural for the Japanese to become interested in the Christian celebration and to absorb some of the customs into their own society including a Christmas tree and turkey with all the trimmings.

The trees are decorated with small toys, dolls, ornaments, gold paper fans, lanterns, and even wind chimes. Candles are also placed on the branches. One of the most popular ornaments is the origami swan.

Hoteiosho, one of the gods from the Japanese pantheon, brings the gifts. Since he has eyes in the back of his head, it's natural for him to observe the behavior of the children in Japan.

One Japanese tradition that is a boon to the baking industry is the Christmas Cake. People purchase them since it is not normally a home project.

The Daiku, or "Great Nine, refers to Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony." This is traditionally performed in many places in Japan during the Christmas and New Year Season.

Christmas in japanIn Tokyo, unusual decorations are often created such as this 14-foot tall tree made from 3,795 champagne glasses. It's illuminated from within and the colors light up the night.

Christmas is often a time for adults to indulge in heavy-duty consumption. Christmas Eve is considered by many to be a prime time of the year for buying diamonds and other jewelery to give to a romantic partner.

On December 26, the decorations are taken down and the Japanese prepare for the fast-approaching New Year's holiday. New Year's Eve is the day to thoroughly clean the house and to dress in your finest clothes. New Year's decorations are usually fashioned from bamboo and pine. The kadomatsu, or gate pine, is placed at the front entrance and the main emphasis of the season is new beginnings. The New Year festivities continue until January 3.

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