The scale of Christmas in Taiwan is astonishing, given that Christians make up less than 4% of the population.
Taiwan has way too many attractions and decorations for a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas.
Tourists from all over the world can feel at home, thanks to a wide selection of dining options, abundant decorations, and European-style Christmas markets.
Taiwanese streets shine in a myriad of vibrant lights throughout December, carolers and people partying in bars spread the festive cheer, and warm weather encourages long walks.
Taiwan is a place where diverse cultures blend into lively celebrations not limited to one religion. Everyone will find an activity to fit their preference.
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Christmas decorations in Taiwan will impress anyone. They are some of the most creative worldwide, different from the traditional Advent wreaths and evergreen garlands we’re all familiar with.
Christians in Taiwan decorate their homes with nativity scenes, Christmas trees, and other conventional holiday symbols.
But because over 96% of locals have a different religion or are atheists, religious symbols aren’t common on Taiwan streets.
Instead, municipalities set up holiday displays with fairytale characters and animals, adorn trees with colorful fairy lights, and use other neutral decorations. Poinsettias, Santas, and gift boxes are very common on Taiwan streets.
Ji-Qing Christmas Alley, voted one of the most romantic places to visit in Taiwan for Christmas, lets locals and tourists dive into a real-life wonderland, drink mulled wine, and dine in fine restaurants.
New Taipei City boasts a myriad of Christmas lights and projections on skyscrapers, giving holidays a futuristic cyberpunk flair.
Taiwanese rarely decorate house exteriors as most people live in multi-story buildings but go all out with interior décor.
Taiwan has a wide selection of cheap Christmas tree ornaments, garlands, and tinsel in dollar stores and Christmas fairs.
Most Taiwanese have artificial Christmas trees because of their affordability. Finding a natural fir in Taiwan is challenging.
Like Americans and Europeans, Taiwanese exchange gifts for Christmas.
The custom is so deeply rooted in winter holiday celebrations that even non-Christians sometimes exchange small gifts with their friends and immediate family, using Christmas as a reason to cheer up their loved ones.
Santa Claus in Taiwan is called Shèngdànlǎorén (I would give a gift to anyone who can pronounce it without prior knowledge of Mandarin). Apart from the name, he’s no different from the jolly old man from Coca-Cola Christmas commercials.
Taiwanese Santa Claus has a long white beard, round glasses, a red fur-trimmed suit, and elf helpers. He rides a sleigh pulled by reindeer but leaves gifts under the Christmas tree rather than in stockings hanging on the fireplace.
Local kids can meet Santa in shopping malls, Christmas markets, and amusement parks, where he will happily take pictures together and accept letters.
Strangely, the demand for Christmas cards in Taiwan isn’t high. Local bookstores and stationery shops don’t offer a wide selection of cards because not many locals celebrate Christmas, and sending cards by post isn’t customary.
The church attendance rate isn’t high in Taiwan for Christmas. Even local Christians prefer to spend Christmas Eve watching the Midnight Mass online while dining with the family or walking with friends outdoors.
Still, the most devoted Christians go to church to celebrate the birth of Christ, listen to scripture readings, sing hymns, and pray. Some also attend the Christmas Day mass.
Taiwanese churches sometimes organize nativity plays where local children perform the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, Jesus’ birth, and the Magi visit. Often, children sing Christmas hymns in the Mandarin language.
The primary reason for the low church attendance rate is a lack of Catholic cathedrals in many regions. Christianity arrived in Taiwan hundreds of years ago, during the Tang Dynasty reign, but never became widespread.
Finding a Catholic church in major urban areas isn’t a problem, and priests are allowed to preach in any language, including Mandarin, Hakka, Amoy dialect, or even English. However, in villages, people usually can’t attend the Midnight Mass.
The most attended Christmas church services in Taiwan are in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Hsinchu City, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Temple Rose in Kaohsiung, and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Taichung.
Anglicans can attend a Midnight Mass in St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei, completed in 1955. To this day, it’s the only Anglican church in Taiwan.
The holiday season in Taiwan is never dull. Whether you’re a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist, Taiwan has plenty of activities for every preference, cultural background, age, and budget.
Locals like skating on ice rinks, shopping at Christmas markets, riding merry-go-rounds, visiting amusement parks, dancing, attending caroling and live music concerts, and going to theaters.
European tourists missing the cozy atmosphere of Christmas markets can visit the European-style Christmas market in Taipei popping up every year in early December in Xiangti Plaza.
The event brings together a curated selection of arts, crafts, Christmas gifts, festive foods, drinks, and numerous children’s activities.
Another famous Christmas market in Taiwan is the German Christmas market Yuanshan Expo Park, taking place in mid-December. It isn’t large, featuring under 50 stalls, but welcomes over 15,000 visitors daily.
Taipei’s most anticipated Christmas event is the Christmasland in New Taipei City. The festival is ranked as one of the 50 greatest Christmas markets in the world.
Festival visitors can witness a fantastic 14-meter-tall LEGO Santa Claus installation, holiday projections, and colossal Christmas trees, shop for gifts and decorations, and have fun at rides.
If you want to know what winter wonderland looks like, search for pictures of the Christmasland fest. The decorations are one-of-a-kind, including a star tunnel and glimmering winter forest installation.
Seeing the amount of Christmas parties on Taipei streets, it’s hard to believe that most locals aren’t Christians. Bars are always crowded, and Christmas music can be heard on every corner. People often dance in Santa hats.
Frozen-themed Christmas carnival at Taipei 101 is a perfect place to spend the holidays for Disney fans. There’s an ice-skating rink, Christmas fair, and other family-friendly activities.
Local kids love baking gingerbread houses with their parents. Gingerbread houses are also sold in many bakeries, along with doughnuts shaped like Santa and snowmen.
There’s no such thing as Taiwanese Christmas food. Because local Christians have different cultural backgrounds, they eat different foods – British, American, Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine are the most common dining choices.
Europeans have no problem finding roast turkey, chicken with stuffing, or glazed ham in Taiwanese restaurants. Taiwanese in urban areas also prefer to eat out on Christmas, while people in rural regions cook at home.
Book a table in advance if you’re ever in Taiwan for the winter holidays because all spots are gobbled up as Christmas nears. Ed’s Diner is one of the best restaurants to celebrate American-style Christmas in Taiwan.
Local grocery stores and bakeries sell Christmas puddings, Italian-style panettones, and Yule log cakes. Christmas markets have a wide selection of gingerbread, mulled wine, and eggnog.
However, native Taiwanese Christians typically prefer eating traditional local foods like noodles with beef, rice with shredded pork, or stir-fry with seafood. Pineapple cake is an iconic Taiwanese pastry favored by locals year-round.
Gua bao is popular Asian street food that is commonly served at local holiday fairs along with traditional western Christmas dishes.
When it comes to drinks, the Taiwanese choose either bubble milk tea, Sorghum liquor from fermented grains, beer, medicinal liquor Yaojiu, or rice wine Mijiu.
Where To Spend Christmas in Taiwan
Christians are sprinkled all across Taiwan, but not every town is equally amusing for tourists seeking new Christmas experiences.
Naturally, the widest selection of entertainment can be found in Taipei City.
Christmasland is one of the most famous yet not the only event worth your attention. Taipei Water Park is wholly redecorated for the holidays, boasting colorful poinsettias, lights, and displays.
Tourists from Latin America will appreciate the Navidad Latin Xmas Market near Taipei’s Art Museum, where they can listen to live music, dance, and shop for gifts and decorations.
Another place to spend Christmas in Taiwan is Kaohsiung. Holy Rosary Cathedral hosts an annual outdoor concert and picnic after Christmas Day mass, and Yancheng Church is illuminated in neon lights.
Hanshin Arena is the go-to for all kids, presenting attractions with favorite Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Howard Plaza Hotel regularly organizes Christmas music events.
Christmas village at CMP Block is the best Christmas attraction in Taichung, offering visitors large-scale art installations, Christmas tree contests, markets, and concerts. Decorations at Taichung Railway Station and Opera House are mind-blowing.
Snow in The Mountains
Snow isn’t common in Taiwan in December, but those wishing to experience a white Christmas can go to the surrounding mountains. Mountain tops are always covered in a snow blanket.
Apart from traditional winter entertainments like skiing and snowboarding, locals and tourists can soak in thermal hot springs. Taiwan’s tallest peak is Yashan Mountain, almost 13,000 feet; the second-tallest one is Xueshan Mountain.
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