Indonesia is today the
world's fourth most populous country with about 210 million inhabitants
with the Christian population constituting probably less than 10 percent
of the total. Christmas, however, is well celebrated here. In some areas
like, Central Jaya (especially in the tourist city of Yogyakarta) and
Bali (where Hindu community constitute the vast majority of the
Balinese), you will sometimes find the uniqueness of the local culture
being mixed with traditional Christmas celebrations. This blend is a
symbol of respect to both the local Indonesian culture and Christianity.
In Jakarta, Indonesia's
capital, the largest and oldest Cathedral in the country is located back
to back with the largest Mosque. A unique tradition during Christmas
season exists in which the Muslim community helps prepare for the
celebration indirectly by preparing some parking space in the
surrounding area that belongs to the mosque. At the other time, during
the Muslim 'Hari Raya', the people from the Christian church help
prepare parking spaces for the Muslim celebration. In Jakarta, parking
space is something in constant demand and not simply affordable.
Thailand is located in Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea
and the Gulf of Thailand, southeast of Burma. Less than 1% of the
population is Christian. There are small churches is some of the large
cities where there is a Christmas observance, but the Christians in
Thailand don't put up outside decorations or splurge on shopping for
In Hong Kong christians of most
denominations celebrate Christmas with hundreds of church services in
Chinese. There are also services held in English for the europeans.
They send Christmas cards. many of
these cards are exquisitely decorated to show the artistic side of the
people who might be gifted. These cards consist of the Holy Family in a
chinese setting. Poinsettias anf Nativity scenes decorate homes,
churches and other public places and ideographs show the chinese
alphabet on streamers and paper chains. Santa Claus also known as Lan
Khoong or Dun Che Lao Ren with his reindeer, are a
surprising addition to the Far Eastern Scene.
Traditional Vietnamese religions are Buddhism and the Chinese
philosophies of Taoism and Confucianism. However, during French rule,
many people became Christians.
Christmas is one of the four most important festivals of the
Vietnamese year, they being the birthday of Buddha, the New Year and the
mid-autumn festival. Although the Christians observed the religious
rituals of Christmas.
On Christmas Eve the Christians would attend a midnight Mass. After
Church people would return to their homes for the most important meal
the Christmas supper. The dinner usually consisted of chicken soup, and
wealthier people ate turkey and Christmas Pudding.
The European customs of Santa Claus and the Christmas tree were
popular and children would leave their shoes out on Christmas Eve.
The only Asian nation in which Christianity is the religion chosen by
the people. Christmas celebrations start nine days before Christmas with
a mass known as Misa de Gallo. At this mass the story behind the
birth of Christ is read from the Bible.
The Panunuluyan pageant is held each Eve. A couple is chosen
to reenact Joseph and Mary's search for shelter.
Mass is held hourly on Christmas Day so that everyone can attend.
Religious services include pastore, or play, based on myth of the
birth of the Christ Child. The pastore closes with a star from the upper
part of the church sliding down a wire and coming to rest over the
church's Nativity scene.
Christmas celebrations may have evolved from old tribal customs mixed
with other influences. Serenading cumbancheros, or strolling
minstrels, end their performances by singing Maligayang Pasko to
the tune of "Happy Birthday".
A shopping arcade in
Singapore decked in Christmas Lights