Tag Archives: winter holidays

Christmas: How Asians Do It

Lights in Seoul. Via Trip Advisor.

Asia is home to almost 4 billion people of diverse histories, cultures, and religions, and yet a common thread of merrymaking unites many Asian countries as December comes along. A lot of cultures have been influenced by American and European colonizers such that long after achieving sovereignty, certain practices remain. Technology, too, contributes to the rise of a global culture where political and cultural boundaries blur.

Therefore though Christians are a minority in Asia, and Christmas at its core is a religious celebration celebrated by this group, non-Christian Asians have secular ways of taking part in it. Christmas mood is infectious! There’s all that music, those brilliant, glorious lights, the decor, the gift-giving, and the sheer joy of it all. And let’s not forget Santa and Rudolph. It’s great fun, good for the soul, and good for business.

So how do Asians celebrate Christmas? In many different ways.


Christmas is called bada din (the big day) and is a state holiday here, much through British colonial influence. In Goa, Christians decorate mango trees or banana plants instead of fir, and light up some clay lanterns.

Decorated banana Christmas tree. Via Paahun Tour Managers.

Santa goes to Goa. Image via Paahun Tour Managers.


Christmas is a  commercial season in Japan, and an opportunity for lovers to exchange gifts. It is pretty much a big deal, but it’s overshadowed by New Year’s which is an even bigger deal.

A minimalist tree. By Emery-Ashbel via Tumblr.


The Christian minority have low-key religious celebrations in China. Hong Kong and Macau, however — the former being and erstwhile territory of Britain, and the latter, of Portugal — are in full holiday gear, bedecked in all the trappings of Christmas, albeit just as a commercial peak season.


Same goes for Singapore, where there’s a Christmas Light-Up activity, wherein rivers of twinkling lights illuminate Orchard Road and Scotts Road, and leading the way to the malls.

South Korea

A good 30 percent of its population Christian, so the Christmas celebration in South Korea is religious just as much as secular, perhaps even more so. Gifts are exchanged by everyone, and Santa drops in too, although he’s called Santa Haraboji in these parts.

A sea of Santas in South Korea. Image via Sulekha.

Christmas lights in South Korea. Via Europe & Beyond.


As one of the two predominantly Christian Asian countries, folks here go truly over the top in their celebration, cramming 400 years of Spanish-Catholic influence and 40 years of secularized American Christmas traditions. Religious practices include novena dawn Masses called misa de gallo, Christmas Eve midnight Mass, and succeeding holidays that go on until the first Sunday after New Year’s, the feast of the Epiphany. Add Santa Claus, plastic Christmas fir trees, and Jingle Bell Rock into that mix, and you’ll get a general picture.

A "belen" or manger scene is typical Christmas decor in the Philippines -- life-sized in malls, office buildings and parks, or in a smaller scale found in living rooms. Image via Hollowayrev.

Posted in Culture | Tagged , ,

Perfect Gifts for Foodies

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

If you partake in gift-giving this time of year, the clock is ticking! You have one week to get all your shopping wrapped up (pun totally intended). But if you have a foodie on your list, there are lots of great products out there that will have them grinning like a kid on Christmas.

Image: Terrain

I can’t imagine a cook who wouldn’t like this cute set close to the stove for a little last minute seasoning.

Image: zing anything

With the New Year comes resolutions; one of mine every year is to get healthy. Why not let your favourite foodie do it in style with a snazzy water bottle complete with a mesh-topped grinder that chops up fruit, vegetables, or herbs to infuse your beverage with great flavours but not the messy pulp?

Image: Uncommon Goods

Matching foods with the right wines can be a challenge for even serious chefs but with these tea towels at hand, your home cook will have no problem knowing which bottle to grab. As a special treat, pair this set with a bottle of red and white to get him or her started.

Image:  Eggshells Kitchen Co.

Everyone can use a practical gift like a cutting board but it doesn’t have to be boring. Joseph Joseph’s is so cute that you won’t want to hide it away in a drawer.

Image: Bar0der

Do you have a budding bartender on your list? Why not get them the Swiss Army knife of bar tools? This little beauty has every gadget necessary to craft the perfect tipple.

Image: Chef Sleeve

Like most foodies, I love cookbooks. But I frequently find myself using recipes from the Internet. It doesn’t take much imagination to think up a dozen ways that your iPad could be destroyed in the kitchen. Fortunately, Chef Sleeve has created disposable covers to keep screens clean and cutting boards with built-in stands to make reading recipes a little easier while preparing one’s mise en place.

Image: Nudo

The most obvious gift for foodies is, of course, food. But don’t settle for the standard gourmet fare- really wow them this year. Instead of picking up a bottle of olive oil you can adopt an olive tree from Nudo, who will send the recipient an adoption kit and three cans from the spring pressing of their very own tree!

Image: Williams Sonoma

Most of us can’t afford to take our loved ones truffle hunting in France or Italy but this oyster mushroom log will at least keep them in fungus without having to leave the comfort of their own kitchens and it is much cheaper than a plane ticket.

Image: visualingual on Etsy

A package of Seed Bombs would make an excellent stocking stuffer for an avid gardener or an apartment dweller; the little globes filled with seeds can be tossed outside or planted in a container to provide a yummy mix of salad greens year round.

Image: Homemade Gin Kit

Since cocktails have become the next cupcakes in the food world, give your gourmet the chance to blend botanicals to make their own gin. Simply add a bottle of vodka to the Homemade Gin Kit and 36 hours later your giftee can be mixing up his or her own cocktail creations.

No matter what gift you choose for your foodie friends, I hope you and yours have a yummy holiday season!

Posted in Food | Tagged , ,

Wrap to Room

image via papersmash

I’m a firm believer that the presentation of a gift makes what’s inside that much more special. Whether it’s taking some extra time to personalize the wrapping paper itself or including a homemade card, it lets the recipient know you care. Looking online I’ve found a wealth of gift wrapping inspiration I’d like to share with you, and I also thought it would be a great time to play a game I like to call ‘wrap to room’.

image via anthology

Eclectic Presents

Go to town mixing patterns, shapes and different kinds of paper and materials for a whimsical feeling. This trio of presents is so happy looking, and I imagine a whole collection of these uniquely wrapped gifts would be beautiful under the tree.

image via the boo and the boy

Eclectic Room

Here, patterns and textures have been combined for the same whimsical effect. Lining shelves in patterned paper is a great way to add visual interest to a wall. This style works especially well in kids rooms and living rooms.

bobalog gift tags and wrap via papercrave

Red, White and Mod Gifts

The online seller bobalog creates this fabulously festive wrapping paper and hand stamped gift tags. Red is instantly evocative of the holidays, and paired with white and geometric shapes also appears clean and modern.

image via bhg

Red, White and Mod Room

This holiday mantle display shows how a bright red pops against an all white wall and fireplace. Geometric christmas trees, graphic pillows and a pompom garland are festive without being too cutesy.

image via odessa may society

Au Natural Wrapping

I love the effect of the delicate white pen drawing on kraft paper. If you have some drawing talent this is a beautiful way to dress up plain paper. It reminds me of snow on wood.  Tie with a simple colourful twine and you are ready to give.

image via Veronica loves Archie

Au Natural Room

Pairing white elements with light coloured wood creates a relaxed and soothing atmosphere. This sunroom is so peaceful. I especially like the wraparound benches that give plenty of spots to savour the view.

image via you are my fave

Watercolour Giftwrap

How pretty is this watercolour wrapping paper? This could be a fantastic DIY that even the kids could get involved in. The yarn bow is also a pretty and easy way to adorn your gifts, but hand-dyed ribbon would be even lovelier, I think.

image via little miss homes

Watercolour Room

It’s hard to make sure pastels stay modern and don’t look like like they should be in a nursery. The way this dining room used both bright and more subtle shades together with white is very evocative of a watercolour painting.

That concludes our game of ‘wrap to room’. Hope you’ve found some wrapping or decorating inspiration, or perhaps a little bit of both.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Commemorative Christmas Ornaments

National Christmas Tree. By Chuck Kennedy via VisitingDC.com.

If you celebrate Christmas, decorating the tree becomes a tradition to look forward to. For my family growing up, we usually decorated the tree as part of our overall holiday home decorations, and we would get a set of new tree ornaments when we updated the others.

For many other families, tree decorating is also as much as a celebration of memories and sentimentality, as some ornaments reflect memorable moments and family history. Commemorative ornaments have their own special meaning, imparted by association with a particular milestone. I put together a few interesting commemorative ornaments I came across recently.

White House Christmas Ornament

Many historically significant institutions release their own ornaments every year. In the US, the White House ornament is one that almost the entire country anticipates with excitement every year. Typically the ornament reflects a milestone in the American presidency and American history.

I found this year’s ornament to be well-crafted with a unique and interesting design. The ornament is a memento of President Taft’s family, pictured in the ornament in a vintage car. The ornament commemorates the Taft family as the first “motoring” Presidential family.

Image by Renee Alfonso

National Gallery of Art

Image from the National Gallery of Art

Another Washington Institution that also puts out an ornament every year is the National Gallery of Art. The ornament is inspired by a woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, and consists of a repeated intricate patterns that form a circular design similar to a Christmas wreath.

Monogram and Photo ornaments

Image from Pottery Barn.

Photo ornaments are popular commemorative pieces. This one from Pottery Barn is also monogrammed apart from having a photo, which can give it added meaning. I find that monograms are a simple way to add a decorative personal touch to an otherwise plain design.

Handprint Ornament

Image from Young House Love.

This DIY ornament was probably my favorite of those I found. First Christmases are always special – and what better way to preserve that memory by keeping an imprint? This is seems great personal Christmas project for anyone with young children in their family. It will become a cherished memory for sure!

Christmas is definitely one of my favorite times of year, and is a time to celebrate cherished memories, as well as make new ones. Special ornaments can help keep those memories alive, bringing back them back every year to be celebrated once more.

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged ,

In the Showroom With Greg: Inspired by Christmas

Greg Laciak is Greentea Design’s lead designer.  When Greg’s not helping clients plan their dream kitchen he’s often in the showroom giving it that quintessential Greentea vibe.  With an unmatched eye for what’s beautiful and how it all fits together, The Design Tree is delighted to have Greg as a guest contributor.  This month Greg explains his process as he designs the showroom for the holidays.

People often ask me where my design inspiration comes from. Typically I answer that inspiration can be found just about anywhere, you just have to keep an open mind.  Case in point my inspiration for this year’s Greentea Christmas look came from an ad for a bathtub of all things!  Here it is:

I loved the rich wall colour and the stark juxtaposition of black and white; and how the faucet and table seemed to sparkle in contrast.  Seeing this was my lightbulb moment: I knew  I had my theme of a black, white and gray Christmas with a silver overlay.  And with the growing popularity of both industrial and rustic furniture, I also knew I wanted to showcase Greentea’s take on this design style.

For Greentea’s display, I started by anchoring the look with a three glass bankers bookcases with the  rustic table placed in front.  Both bookcases and table were set with a collection of white servingware and festive touches of silver.  After taking a few customer requests to paint some of Greentea’s pieces white and loving this effect, I knew painted white benches would pull this look together.

A big Christmas tree fit in a black pot is elegant and simple dressed in white lights and a dusting of fluffy white “snow”.

For the entryway, I used a small black buffet decorated with a large bowl of silver baubles and topped with a rustic mirror.

Two new items to our furniture line include the rustic console and  bench with industrial wheels,I felt that the big red wheels added a playfull touch, much like the red firetruck you always hoped would be under the tree. The 2 shattered glass mirrors  look amazing painted white, and the white and black cow print rug pulled all the elements together. I added the small douglas fir tree in the black champagne bucket, the paperwhites in the shiny bowl and the white tray of silver baubles – the final nod to to the festive season.

A very dear friend of mine once said that a display must always have something whimsical in it. What could be more whimsical than a trail of Santa bells!

Wishing you all the most inspired, whimsical and magical holiday season!