The headlines on the BBC report:

Millions celebrate Christmas Day 

People queue to enter the Church of Nativity grotto
People queued to enter the grotto under the Church of the Nativity

Millions of Christians around the world are marking Christmas Day – the traditional day of Christ’s birth.

The article then goes on to discuss the fact that pilgrims are again visiting Bethlehem.

The problem?

The word “Millions”…

The last time I looked, there were 2.1 Billion Christians in the world. A few minor sects don’t celebrate Christmas, and some Orthodox still use the Julian Calender, but that still leaves well over a billion Christians who do celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th.

So my question to the BBC: Are you religiously challenged or Mathematically challenged?

Presumably both, since recent polls indicate that the UK is increasingly deChristianized, with more Catholics than Anglicans attending church weekly.

However, there is a growing Christian church in Asia that has it’s own customs, and many others have adopted the cheerful secular version of the holiday, with Santa Claus and gift giving.

Here in the Philippines, we attended midnight Mass, with a choir in traditional Filipino garb singing hymns in English and Tagalog.

The story of Mary and Joseph is much more believable here in the provinces, where children are still welcome but people are poor and identify with a family unable to find shelter during their travels.
We had the “live” Nativity scene, with first Mary and Joseph, then the baby, then the shepherds, and finally the three kings arriving during the service.

In today’s world, it would be travelers to find work, or to flee a nearby disaster finding refuge in a side room or garage but who survived with help from nearby neighbors, both rich and poor, giving gifts.

The Philippines has a majority Christian population, but there are Christians in other Asian countries that also tend to be ignored by the world press.

In a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, the BBC has an article on their front page discusses the underground Christians in China…this story is about Protestant Christians who refuse to join the state operated church but prefer to worship in homes. It also discusses the only printing press in China that is allowed to publish Bibles: 41 million so far.

The “official” number of Christians is 16 million, but some feel that 40 million is a closer estimate. China has both church run and “underground” Christian churches: Catholic and Protestant, so numbers are vague.

China also has over 200 million who follow other religions, mainly Buddhism. Yet like many other countries with few Christians, the secular Christmas is becoming popular. 

Some in China are trying to fight against the holiday by stressing traditional values, but a Photo montage from ChinaDaily, and shows a choir in Hefei, East China.
The ChinaDaily has a photo montage here of mainly secular celebrations of the holidays, including SantaClaus in Syria and Tehran. Hmmm…

Christians outside of the Philippines still celebrate the religious aspect of the season, but the secular holiday with Santa is gaining popularity in other countries.

Japan, with a tiny Christian population, has embraced the secular holiday, but it is less celebrated in Korea, despite that country’s larger Christian population.

So the Santa Man is spreading in Asia, and is quite visible, but with less publicity so is the story of the homeless child whose parents took shelter with the animals but whose birth was greeted by angels.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

Be Sociable, Share!