We all know about the trademark white Christmas.
What many travellers don’t know is that a festive holiday with all the traditional trimmings is possible in an Asia winter wonderland.
Not only will you get the tinsel and the snow, there are some of the best celebrations in the world still untainted by mass tourism and commercial clichés.
Celebrated differently in each region, Christmas in Asia makes for a magical influence of western culture mixed with local tradition and landscapes.
So before you start stuffing the turkey and untangling the lights, check out these events in Asia for a different Christmas cultural experience…
For a grand immersion into a white Christmas, visit the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. From Christmas Eve until 25 February 2018, the capital of the Heilongjiang Province has a packed program. Featuring an international snow and ice sculpture art expo, winter swimming, an ice lantern art fair, dog sledding and of course, ice hotels to complete the theme!
The festival spans 600,000 square kilometres. With the tallest ice edifices standing about 65m-high, with 10,000 workers required to cut and haul the blocks of ice. The scale and size of the sculptures and the beautiful lighting are even bigger than Christmas festivals in Norway! The events are held across three venues: The Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Festival venue and the Ice and Snow World venue are evening exhibitions. And the snow sculptures on Sun Island are for viewing during the daytime.
It’s also the time to see some of China’s best attractions under the magic spell of winter snow – the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, the Forbidden City, the classical gardens of Suzhou, and the Giant Pandas at the Chengdu Breeding Base.
If you want to swap a hot Aussie Christmas for a cool dream-like Asia winter wonderland, take your family to Sapporo between 5 and 12 February. The Sapporo Snow Festival is a free event and is staged across three areas – Odori Park, Tsudome, and Susukino – with delicately carved sculptures measuring more than 25 metres wide and 15 meters high. The Tsudome site has a variety of fun activities, including snow slides and snow rafting.
While visiting Japan’s 5th largest city in winter, check out the powder slopes on Mt Teine and Niseko. You can also take in panoramic city views on the 38th floor of the JR Tower, devour cookies filled with white chocolate between crispy wafers at the 200-year-old Ishiya Chocolate Factory, and seafood lovers can feast almost anywhere on sushi, ramen, and the local delicacy of horsehair crab (kegani).
You should also take a trip to Otaru, a short train ride from Sapporo for the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival. Where the small town is illuminated with tiny lanterns creating a fairytale-like atmosphere.
One of Singapore’s most famous attractions, Gardens by the Bay, will also be alive with Christmas spirit when the international plant kingdom holds the Christmas Wonderland Festive Market, reminiscent of the Christkindlmarkts of Germany and the Marché de Noëls of France, with a Singaporean twist.
Stroll through the market with mugs of glühwein (mulled wine) and gingerbread treats to source handmade gifts. Head for the ice rink and have a snowball fight at the Ice Palace. Take a joyride on the vintage-style carousel. Or whirl around the fairgrounds on board the Christmas train. In the evening, visit the Christmas Wonderland at Marina Bay for luminaries light sculptures hand-made in Italy.
For added Christmas cheer, visit Orchard Street for its annual Christmas on a Great Street event. Where the strip becomes a shopping haven with more than 25 brands, from food to fashion, pitching their tents for an exclusive street market. Orchard Street will also have interactive art installations and a ‘snow room’ with DIY workshops.
The people of Hong Kong LOVE Christmas – it is one of the most festive places in Asia. There will be no snow, but the weather is generally dry, mild and sunny. CNN once named Hong Kong as one of the Top 10 places in the world to spend Christmas!
View the Christmas lights on dozens of buildings along Victoria Harbor. All choreographed in a light show with Christmas and New Year’s decorations! During WinterFest, most of the city is aglow with festive lighting and laser imagery.
Victoria Harbor is a dazzling sight especially when the fireworks bursts in the light show on New Year’s Eve.
Streets are full of vibrant WinterFest Christmas displays, food galore and Christmas shops. Disneyland has Christmas-themed amusements and entertainment and the iconic harbour-staged Symphony of Lights features Christmas decorations.
For more information about travelling to Asia over Christmas and Winter, visit our website. Please note that as these festivals are a popular time to visit, availability can be limited and price surcharges will apply.