Magical December in Asia: Five Unmissable Festivals!
In December, a multitude of festivals and celebrations unfold across Asia, marking the festive season. Here are the five most remarkable celebrations during this period!
The celebration of Christmas takes place on the evening of December 24th and on December 25th in many countries across Asia, extending beyond the Christian community.
From December onward, Christmas trees and decorations emerge in shopping centers and public spaces in major metropolises like Singapore, Bangkok, or Tokyo. In Japan, Christmas is regarded as a second Valentine's Day, focusing more on romance than religion: it's an opportunity for lovers to exchange gifts.
In the Philippines, the Asian country with the highest number of Christians, churches are filled for Christmas masses. The Latin culture inherited from Spanish colonization influences the celebrations, especially the Christmas Eve feast, known as Noche Buena, celebrated with family after the mass.
Vietnam also embraces Christmas in a unique and authentic way. Despite its Christian origins, this celebration has become very popular among the entire Vietnamese population, especially the youth.
Christmas is seen as an opportunity for entertainment, exchanging gifts, and wishing each other good luck and prosperity for the new year. The initial religious dimension has faded, giving way to a festive, friendly, and secular celebration that reflects the Vietnamese culture's ability to integrate foreign traditions.
Thus, the magic and lights of Christmas make their presence felt in many countries across Asia, transcending cultural and religious differences.
2. Hmong New Year - Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and China
This New Year celebration is distinctive to the Hmong, one of the largest ethnic groups in the mountainous region of northern Southeast Asia. The timing varies each year based on the rice harvest calendar. Traditional performances and games are enjoyed by the entire community, making it an ideal opportunity for singles from neighboring villages to encounter potential partners. The festivities are renowned for lasting over 6 weeks!
3. Hoi An Lantern Festival, Vietnam
The Hoi An Lantern Festival takes place on the 14th day of the lunar month when the moon is full. Colorful lanterns are hung throughout the old town, creating a magical atmosphere. This unique festival attracts many Vietnamese and foreign tourists.
During the festival, all vehicles and electric lights in the city are turned off from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Visitors can stroll and admire the lanterns, attend traditional performances, buy paper lanterns to release on the river, or savor the culinary specialties of Hoi An.
4. New Year (Shogatsu) in Japan
The Japanese New Year, known as Shogatsu, spans from December 31st to January 2nd. While the traditional celebration is based on the Lunar New Year, January 1st has been recognized as the official New Year's Day since 1873. The festival concludes with an address from the emperor on January 2nd, marking the second occasion of the year when the public is allowed to enter the palace.
5. Lights Festival at Morning Calm Garden, South Korea
The Morning Calm Garden, a breathtaking botanical haven located in South Korea, just a two-hour train ride from Seoul, features over 5,000 plant species against the scenic backdrop of Chungryeongsan Mountain.
From December to March, the Lights Festival magically transforms the 30-hectare garden. Countless sparkling bulbs illuminate the snowy pathways and trees, creating a captivating winter wonderland.
Visitors can stroll under colorful arches leading to different areas of the garden. Shapes of musical instruments and animals are also outlined with light garlands.
The Lights Festival is among the country's most popular winter attractions, offering a delightful outing for the entire family!