Unique Christmas traditions across Asia

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 Audrey Magazine: 

Christmas is less than a week away! For many of us, this season means decorating Christmas trees, navigating through crowded malls, playing the Michael Bublé Christmas album way too much and baking gingerbread cookies. But what does Christmas look like for the rest of the world? More specifically, how is Christmas in Asia?

Asian countries have a smaller number of Christians and Catholics compared to the rest of the world. In Thailand for instance, less than 1% of the population is Christian. As a result, many Asian countries who do celebrate Christmas simply follow Western customs and traditions such as Midnight Mass and the exchange of gifts (but not without enthusiasm). In places like Hong Kong, Vietnam and Malaysia, Western customs and traditions are followed, but the holiday has a more secular view than a religious one.

Of course, this is not the case for all Asian countries. The Philippines, for instance, is one of two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia and Christmas is the most enthusiastically celebrated holiday on the calendar. The country is known for celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season which begins September 1st.

We’ve found that the Asian countries which do celebrate Christmas have an interesting set of traditions specific to their country. Here are some of the most unique ones:

JAPAN

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In 1974, KFC Japan began to promote fried chicken as a Christmas meal. The insanely successful “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign made the “Christmas Chicken” bucket an annual tradition. In fact, the tradition has become so popular, people order their buckets months in advance to avoid the two hour line.

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In addition to KFC fried chicken, there is one more thing that must be on the table for any Japanese home to feel the holiday spirit: Christmas cake. According to anthropologist Michael Ashkenazi, who studied Japanese culture and tradition, Christmas cake is “sold on practically every street corner.”

Japanese Christmas cakes are sponge cakes covered in white cream and ruby red strawberries.

KOREA

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Christianity is still relatively new in Korea, so many Christmas celebrations follow that of Western culture. However, Korea has its own version of Santa Claus. Santa Haraboji, or Grandfather Santa, looks similar to the Western Santa, but he wears a traditional Korean hat (gat) and his statues have often portrayed him in a green suit instead of a red one.

INDONESIA

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Although Indonesia is a Muslim country, Christmas is still regarded as a public holiday celebrated by many. Shopping malls are known to cover themselves in Christmas decorations and Santa Claus is even a widely-known figure. One Christmas tradition in Indonesia that we typically see in July are fireworks.

INDIA

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Similar to Indonesia, India has a very small Christian population, but the 2.3% of Christians (that’s 25 million) are very enthusiastic about Christmas. Religious customs such as Midnight Mass are observed and some even put a small, oil-burning, clay lamp on their roof to show that Jesus is the light of the world. In South India, the tradition of the Christmas tree is alive and well, but instead of pine trees, mangos trees are used.

PHILIPPINES

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In the Philippines, Christmas is celebrated from September until January. Needless to say, this holiday is huge. One of the most well-known traditions is Simbang Gabi (night mass) which are nightly, dawn masses beginning from December 16th and ending on Christmas Eve. The masses are meant to show devotion to God and create more anticipation for the birth of Christ. After each mass, plenty of traditional food is consumed.

A "parol" is a traditional Filipino Christmas lantern.

To us, the Christmas tree is one of the most symbolic decorations of Christmas. In the Philippines, it’s the paról. Paróls are star-shaped lanterns which represents the star of Bethlehem which guided the Three Kings. Early paróls were made of bamboo, rice paper and oil lanterns.

Now, the art form of making paróls has become as intricate as they are beautiful.

 

10 Asian soups to keep you warm over the holidays

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 Audrey Magazine:

On a blistering cold night, a steaming hot bowl of soup is the tastiest cure to the shivers and well, almost everything else right? Now that winter is full steam (sorry) ahead, here are ten different Asian soups, from the popular to the underrated, that you should try eating and possibly try making this winter!

1. Kuy Teav

Image courtesy of khatiya-komer

A Cambodian delicacy, kuy teav is a Camobidan Chinese pork noodle soup made from a clear broth and flat rice noodles. Kuy teav is usually enjoyed as a breakfast dish from street vendors, but we feel that it’s comforts will last throughout the day!

2. Soba

Image courtesy of kampai.us

Unlike the popular ramen, soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. Soba can be a year round dish and is typically served either hot and in a soup for winter or chilled with a dipping sauce for summer. Also, soba differs from udon in that soba noodles are thin while udon noodles are genuinely thicker.

 3. Laksa

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A spicy MalayasianChinese fusion dish. There are three main types of laksa: curry laksa, asam laksa and sarawak laksa. Curry laksa has a coconut curry base, while asam laksa has a sourfish soup base, and sarawak has a sambal belacan base. No matter which type of laksa you choose, it’s sure to give you a kick!

4. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Image Courtesy of S.O.F.A.T BLOG

There are many different types of beef noodle soups out there. However, the red-braised beef noodle soup was invented by Chinese refugees in Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. Today, Taiwan considers this red-braised beef noodle soup a national dish. With it’s tender beef and spicy broth, it is sure to be a comfort during those chilly months.

5. Tong Sui

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Tong Sui literally means “sugar water” in Cantonese and is a soup dessert that is a Cantonese delicacy.

6. Bakmi Ayam

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Bakmi ayam, or often shortened to mei ayam, is an Indonesian noodle soup that is very simple but delicious. The main ingredients are wheat noodles, chinese bok choy (cabbage), and slices of chicken and mushroom. Eaten separately or together with the broth, the soup is delicious either way!

7. Sinigang

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Sinigiang is a Filipino dish. A tamarind-based soup, Sinigiang is usually sour because of ingredients such as guava and ripe mango.

8. Soondobu Jjigae

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Soondubu jjigae is a spicy Korean tofu soup. It’s typically served in a hot stone pot with other dishes such as rice, meat, or banchan on the side.

9. Milagu Rasam

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Milagu Rasam is a pepper tamarind-based South Indian soup. Supposedly, both the black pepper and tamarind are natural heat-inducing ingredients for the body. Either way, milagu rasam is a tasty method to staying warm!

10. Bun Mang Vit

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Pho is probably the most famous Vietnamese soups, but Bun Mang Vit, a duck and noodle soup, is also another tasty option! The main ingredients here are duck, bamboo shoots and vermicelli noodles, but the lemongrass, ginger and chili give this soup a nice kick.