What does Christmas look like in China?

By December 4, 2023

China (MNN) — China has many cultural differences from the Western world, but what does that mean when it comes to the holidays? According to China Partner’s Erik Burklin, many people in China do celebrate Christmas, but it tends to be a very commercialized version of the holiday. Stores are dripping with decorations, Santa Claus imagery, and advertisements asking customers to buy Christmas gifts for their loved ones.

But Burklin says that although Christmas is a commercial event for many people in China, it’s an opportunity for local Christians. “The beautiful thing that that we have noticed, since we partner with many, many churches, pastors, and Christian leaders in China, they use that opportunity to explain to their friends. People that come to their churches use that month as a way of witnessing to their neighbors, to their friends, to their family members, and so forth.”

In other words, it’s an unmissable opportunity for outreach. Churches host Christmas celebrations featuring baptisms, choirs singing carols, and the Christmas story. “It’s a phenomenal month for new believers coming into the faith […] they’re very intentional in trying to reach their people for Jesus Christ during December.”

There are some official restrictions on these celebrations. Most notably, Christian Christmas events must be held within church facilities, meaning church buildings or auditoriums. Even under those rules, however, registered house churches are allowed to host their Christmas parties at home without interference.

“I think the government also respects the fact that this is one of the largest Christian celebrations that Christians do every year – the birth of Christ – so they allow them to celebrate that,” Burklin says. “Again, you can’t do this in the open area. You can’t go to downtown Beijing or Tiananmen Square and do this. But as long as you have these events inside the church building, then it’s possible.”

Christians seizing these opportunities are seeing God move in the hearts of people curious about Christmas. Burklin recalls the story of a Christian woman who acts as a church leader in her local church. Her husband, however, was a member of the Communist party and worked with the local government.

“So I asked her, ‘Well, how do you manage being married to a husband who is working for the government?’ And then she smiled. I asked her, ‘Does he also believe?’ and she smiled and said ‘Yes, in his heart.’ So these people who get exposed to the Gospel, many of them who do choose to follow Jesus, they will do that very privately.”

Remember that God is not limited by borders, laws, or people. “His spirit is everywhere,” Burklin says. “That is a good reminder for us as Christians who live in freedom, who have a privilege of going to a church service and not have to worry about whether or not to police is going to check me out or not.”

How can you pray for China’s Christians around Christmas?

Pray “that the Holy Spirit would draw people to himself during Christmas time. Pray for faithfulness for the pastors, especially those pastors who are working in unregistered situations […] Rejoice that Jesus is not limited and that his message gets communicated and gets declared no matter where we are.”

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Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.

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