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    How China celebrates Christmas: Luxury beauty boxes, apple gifting and socials

    How are luxury brands marking Christmas in China and why are apples a common gift?
    In China, people sometimes give apples for Christmas as a symbol for peace and joy. Image: Xiaohongshu
      Published   in Retail

    Christmas in China may not rival the scale of traditional Chinese festivals, or globally recognized shopping holidays, but its growing popularity among certain consumer segments offers new avenues for luxury brands to explore.

    Christmas beauty boxes#

    Linda Yu, General Manager of Red Ant, a cross-border China marketing agency, points to a gradual shift in the Chinese consumer's attitude toward Christmas. While interest in the festival can’t compare to the fervor for Lunar New Year, or the surge in expenditure during Singles’ Day on November 11, there remains a market for Christmas-themed luxury items.

    "Big beauty brands still launch Christmas limited products, but the promotion is far less than for their Chinese New Year products," Yu says.

    Brands like YSL, Dior and Mac regularly release dedicated Christmas boxes. According to Yu, another increasingly popular item is the scented candle, like those from British label Jo Malone.

    Jo Malone localizes Christmas gift boxes in China Image: Jo Malone
    Jo Malone localizes Christmas gift boxes in China Image: Jo Malone

    Despite the subtle integration of Christmas, luxury brands see this period as an opportunity to engage with a specific segment of consumers, typically one that has had stronger exposure to Western influences. The focus tends to be on unique experiences and limited-edition products, rather than widespread promotions. This targeted approach aligns with the observation that Christmas, while growing in popularity, hasn't reached the mass scale of impact as Chinese festivals or shopping holidays.

    YSL’s Christmas box on Tmall. Image: YSL
    YSL’s Christmas box on Tmall. Image: YSL

    Carol Chan, Managing Director at Comms8, echoes this sentiment, emphasizing that Christmas is not seen as a major season for gifting, or spending in China. "Young Chinese consumers in tier-1 cities tend to see Christmas as an opportunity for entertainment and socializing with friends, rather than as a season for gifting," Chan says.

    Christmas apple#

    Yong Xin, a 20-something Chinese tech worker who has lived in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, shares her personal experience of Christmas evolving into a social occasion among friends.

    "It has become more and more popular among young people these days," she says, noting that Christmas parties and secret gift exchanges are common practices. However, unlike Western traditions, gift exchanges in China during Christmas are usually confined to social circles rather than family or wider acquaintances.

    Chan highlights the tradition of gifting apples (the fruit not the iphone) on Christmas Eve. "People give an apple, called pingguo (苹果), as a symbol of peace and joy," she says.

    The core of this tradition lies in a linguistic play: the Mandarin phrase for Christmas Eve, pingan ye (平安夜), means peaceful night, which phonetically resembles the word for apple, pingguo (苹果). Capitalizing on this homophonic coincidence, the concept of 'peace apples' or pingan guo (平安果) emerged as a popular custom. These specially packaged apples, often wrapped in colorful paper and sometimes bearing festive messages, symbolize wishes of peace and safety. The practice has gained such popularity that it's now common to see these apples adorned with ribbons, cartoons, or even Christmas greetings printed directly on their skin.

    In China, the tradition of gifting apples during Christmas, often wrapped in vibrant paper with festive messages, has become popular. These apples, sometimes decorated with ribbons or Christmas greetings, symbolize wishes of peace and safety. Image: Xiaohongshu
    In China, the tradition of gifting apples during Christmas, often wrapped in vibrant paper with festive messages, has become popular. These apples, sometimes decorated with ribbons or Christmas greetings, symbolize wishes of peace and safety. Image: Xiaohongshu

    This custom underscores a broader trend in modern China, where non-local festivals like Christmas are adapted to fit local cultural contexts and preferences. Particularly among urban youth, the festival has been reimagined as a romantic and social affair, bearing a closer semblance to Valentine's Day. The holiday’s burgeoning presence in China's cosmopolitan areas presents intriguing dynamics for luxury and beauty brands.


    • Luxury brands in China celebrate Christmas with themed beauty boxes and limited-edition products, focusing on unique experiences for consumers exposed to Western influences.
    • The tradition of gifting apples on Christmas Eve in China, symbolizing peace and joy, showcases the adaptation of non-local festivals to fit local cultural contexts.
    • Recognizing the popularity of scented candles and specially packaged beauty products like those from Jo Malone and YSL during Christmas in China can guide brands in catering to the subtle yet increasing interest in holiday-themed items among consumers.
    • Brands targeting young consumers in tier-1 Chinese cities during Christmas can focus on socializing and entertainment experiences rather than emphasizing family gifting or extravagant spending.
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