How should your brand celebrate Christmas in China?

Christmas is fast becoming one of the biggest days for shopping on the Chinese calendar. So it’s important for your brand to understand how the Chinese celebrate Christmas.

  1. Friends not family

Christmas in China is a time for going out with friends not staying at home with family. In this way it’s similar to Saint Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day or Halloween. Popular activities include going shopping, seeing a movie, singing karaoke or ice-skating. More and more young people are celebrating this festival with Christmas Eve now being a time for young couples to go on a romantic date – which usually just entails shopping at the mall. Interestingly, a uniquely Chinese tradition has developed whereby many shops give away apples wrapped in coloured paper or cellophane. The reason for this is that in Chinese the word for Christmas Eve is ‘ping an ye’ which sounds similar to the word for apple ‘ping guo’.

  1. Time for shopping with Santa

For young Chinese, Christmas is often just before their final exams, so celebrating this western festival has become an excuse to briefly escape the pressures of university life. Despite not having any formal holidays for Christmas, many department stores and online merchants use this festival as a way to lure in shoppers. In fact, at many stores sales volumes on Christmas Eve have been reported to be the highest for the whole year. Most large shopping malls fill their stores with plastic Christmas trees, shining lights and mobs of Santas. That’s right – usually there isn’t just one Santa but a group of Santas followed by Santa’s elves or ‘Santa’s sisters’ as they are known to many Chinese. In Chinese, Santa is called ‘sheng dan lao ren’ which means ‘old Christmas man’, and outside of churches there is little mention of Jesus or the religious significance of Christmas.

  1. Christmas online

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Christmas sales and promotions are not just used by bricks and mortar stores, ecommerce platforms such as Tmall and JD.com are also leveraging the commercial power of this Western holiday to boost sales. This year Tmall is holding a special Christmas sale in the two weeks leading up to Christmas (14 – 25 December). The promotion also includes 1 Yuan trips to spend Christmas overseas. Western coffee giant, Starbucks, which already has a huge presence in China, has long used the Christmas season to promote its hot beverages that warm customers during the cold winter months. For Christmas 2015, Starbucks has entered into a deal with Tmall to heavily promote its brand during the Christmas season. You’ll notice that the Starbucks logo and signature cups appear prominently on the home page of the Tmall site.

Perhaps it’s time to think how your brand can promote itself during next year’s festive season.

Image 1: Chinadaily. Image 2: Tmall.com