Christians in China celebrate by lighting their houses with beautiful paper lanterns and decorating their Christmas trees, which they call "Trees of Light," with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns. Department stores advertise the season with Santa figures that reach three and four stories high.
Chinese Children hang muslin stockings and await a visit from Santa Claus, whom they call Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run) which means "Christmas Old Man."
There are an estimated four million people in China who are Christian. This is a very small percentage compared to the overall population of the nation. They worship at small churches and in huge cathedrals such as the Nantang Cathedral in Beijing shown here.
Christian missionaries first arrived in in Xian, the ancient capital and cradle of Chinese civilization, in 625.
In 1999, a nativity scene, made from wood and plaster circa A.D. 780, was found on a shadowy wall of a crumbling 1,200-year-old pagoda on the windswept hillside of a Tao monastery near the ancient capital city.
The nativity scene combines Chinese landscape imagery with the reclining figure of the Madonna, according to Martin Palmer, the British scholar who found it. While badly eroded, the towering wall sculpture is clearly not a Chinese creation but a fascinating meld of Eastern and Western spirituality.
Since the vast majority of the Chinese people are not Christian, the main winter festival in China is the Chinese New Year which takes place toward the end of January. Now officially called the "Spring Festival," it is a time when children receive new clothing, eat luxurious meals, receive new toys, and enjoy firecracker displays.
An important aspect of the New Year celebration is the worship of ancestors. Portraits and paintings of ancestors are brought out and hung in the main room of the home.