Holidays Around the World

Holidays Around the World

South and Southeast Asia

12/15/2023 | Angela Whitlock, CSRA

In continuing our conversation on how different areas of the world celebrate the holidays, today we are going to take a look at South and Southeast Asia.

Since the Asian community in Champaign County makes up 15% of the total population, making them our third largest demographic, it is even more important to look at these holiday traditions.

In many of these countries, Christianity is a minority religion. This means that the holiday season in South and Southeast Asia is either a recognized state holiday or not, and that regardless of this recognition, the holiday is still celebrated commercially in some way.

In India and Pakistan, Christianity is only practiced by 2.3% and 1.6% of the population respectively. Many of these individuals attend Midnight Mass or have decorations that are religiously affiliated both inside and outside of their homes. In India, where Christmas is known as Bada Din, meaning “Big Day,” cakes and sweets are exchanged with neighbors and trees are planted mainly by those in the North-West region of the country. In Pakistan, Christians go from house to house singing carols and collecting money that they then donate or use for charity works. The Allahabadi fruitcake, a special holiday treat, is consumed during the season. You can also see holiday decorations throughout cafes, restaurants, or theme parks.

In Indonesia, Christmas is a public holiday, with a larger population of the county as either Protestants or Roman Catholics. Here, individuals celebrate with ceremonies, festivals, and local foods, such as nastar, a pineapple tart, or putri salju, a crescent-shaped cookie coated in powdered sugar. Many commercial places feature decorations, and most local television channels broadcast holiday music concerts, as well as an annual celebration held by the government. It is common for many to attend church on Christmas Eve and the next morning, and exchanging gifts is also a common tradition.

The Philippines is one of two predominately Catholic countries in Asia, with the other being East Timor). It is also one of the biggest holidays on the calendar, making it widely celebrated. The Philippines has been distinguished as celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season. Here, you can hear holiday carols sung as early as September 1st, when their countdown to Christmas begins. The season is officially ushered in by the nine-day dawn masses that begin on December 16th, held at Catholic parishes and chapels.

In contrast, Vietnam is not a national holiday at all, but it is becoming increasingly popular due to increasing exposure to Western culture’s non-religious, more commercialized aspects of holiday traditions. For Vietnamese individuals, the holiday is more about going out on the town, shopping, and taking pictures with friends in front of holiday displays than it is about having a holiday dinner with family or attending church services.

*information taken from a series of news articles, as well as,, and