Mandarin Chinese Christmas Vocabulary

How to Say Merry Christmas and Other Holiday Phrases

Chinese child at Christmas
© 2006 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Christmas is not an official holiday in China, so most offices, schools, and shops remain open. Nonetheless, many people still get into the holiday spirit during the Yuletide, and all the trappings of Christmas can be found in China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. 

Additionally, many people in recent years have begun celebrating Christmas in China. You can see Christmas decorations in department stores, and the custom of exchanging gifts is becoming more popular—especially with the younger generation. Many also decorate their homes with Christmas trees and ornaments. So, learning Mandarine Chinese Christmas vocabulary can be helpful if you plan to visit the region.

Two Ways to Say Christmas

There are two ways to say “Christmas” in Mandarin Chinese. The links provide a transliteration of the word or phrase (called pinyin), followed the word or phrase written in traditional Chinese characters, followed by the same word or phrase printed in simplified Chinese characters. Click on the links to bring up an audio file and hear how to pronounce the words.

The two ways to say Christmas in Mandarin Chinese are shèng dàn jié (聖誕節 traditional 圣诞节 simplified) or yē dàn jié (耶誕節 trad 耶诞节 simplified). In each of the phrases, the final two characters (dàn jié) are the same. Dàn refers to birth, and jié means “holiday.”

The first character of Christmas can be either shèng or . Shèng translates as “saint” and is a phonetic, which is used for Jesus yē sū (耶穌 traditional 耶稣 simplified).

Shèng dàn jié means “the birth of a saint holiday” and yē dàn jié means “the birth of Jesus holiday.” Shèng dàn jié is the more popular of the two phrases. Whenever you see shèng dàn, though, remember that you can also use yē dàn instead.

Mandarin Chinese Christmas Vocabulary

There are many other Christmas-related words and phrases in Mandarin Chinese, from "Merry Christmas" to "poinsettia" and even "gingerbread house." In the table, the English word is given first, followed by the pinyan (transliteration), and then the traditional and simplified spellings in Chinese. Click the pinyan listings to hear how each word or phrase is pronounced.

English Pinyin Traditional Simplified
Christmas shèng dàn jié 聖誕節 圣诞节
Christmas yē dàn jié 耶誕節 耶诞节
Christmas eve shèng dàn yè 聖誕夜 圣诞夜
Christmas eve ping ān yè 平安夜 平安夜
Merry Christmas shèng dàn kuài lè 聖誕快樂 圣诞快乐
Christmas tree shèng dàn shù 聖誕樹 圣诞树
Candy Cane guǎi zhàng táng 拐杖糖 拐杖糖
Christmas presents shèng dàn lǐ wù 聖誕禮物 圣诞礼物
Stocking shèng dàn wà 聖誕襪 圣诞袜
Poinsettia shèng dàn hóng 聖誕紅 圣诞红
Gingerbread house jiāng bǐng wū 薑餅屋 姜饼屋
Christmas card shèng dàn kǎ 聖誕卡 圣诞卡
Santa Claus shèng dàn lǎo rén 聖誕老人 圣诞老人
Sleigh xuě qiāo 雪橇 雪橇
Reindeer mí lù 麋鹿 麋鹿
Christmas carol shèng dàn gē 聖誕歌 圣诞歌
Caroling bào jiā yīn 報佳音 报佳音
Angel tiān shǐ 天使 天使
Snowman xuě rén 雪人 雪人

Celebrating Christmas in China and the Region

While most Chinese opt to overlook Christmas’s religious roots, a sizable minority do head to church for services in a variety of languages, including Chinese, English, and French. There are approximately 70 million practicing Christians in China as of December 2017, according to the Beijinger, a monthly entertainment guide and website based in China's capital.

The figure represents only 5 percent of the country's total population of 1.3 billion, but it's still large enough to make an impact. Christmas services are held at an array of state-run churches in China and at houses of worship throughout Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

International schools and some embassies and consulates are also closed on Dec. 25 in China. Christmas Day (Dec. 25) and Boxing Day (Dec. 26) are public holidays in Hong Kong, so government offices and businesses are closed. Macau recognizes Christmas as a holiday and most businesses are closed. In Taiwan, Christmas coincides with Constitution Day (行憲紀念日). Taiwan used to observe Dec. 25 as a day off, but currently, as of March 2018, Dec. 25 is a regular working day in Taiwan.