December in Asia: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Snow and Christmas lights in Sapporo, Japan

Amana Images Inc / Getty Images

 

December in Asia is exciting, and Southeast Asia has plenty of places for the perfect escape from holiday madness at home—particularly if you prefer your Christmas be made white by sand instead of snow!

A handful of fun festivals take place around Asia in December, including celebrations for Christmas and New Year's Eve. Use this guide to pack appropriately and enjoy the season.

Asia in December
 Wenjia Tang / © TripSavvy 2018

Busy December

Millions of travelers decide to run from winter temperatures and holiday stress. Some simply need to burn up remaining vacation days. Regardless of the reason, some places in Asia become unusually busy during December. Be prepared to join the fray and pay a premium for accommodation or choose quieter places!

  • With a sizable Christian population and Portuguese past, Goa in India fills to capacity in December as travelers come to party.
  • The Philippines, Southeast Asia's predominantly Christian country, really gets exciting during the buildup to Christmas.
  • The Emperor's Birthday and Shogatsu (New Year) celebrations in Tokyo make the city even busier than usual.
  • The two December Full Moon Parties in Koh Phangan, Thailand, are often the busiest of the year.

Asia Weather in December

(average high / low temperatures and humidity)

  • Bangkok: 91 F (32.8 C) / 74 F (23.3 C) / 64 percent humidity
  • Kuala Lumpur: 89 F (31.7 C) / 75 F (23.9 C) / 83 percent humidity
  • Bali: 87 F (30.6 C) / 77 F (25 C) / 81 percent humidity
  • Singapore: 87 F (30.6 C) / 76 F (24.4 C) / 83 percent humidity
  • Beijing: 38 F (3.3 C) / 21 F (minus 6.1 C) / 48 percent humidity
  • Tokyo: 53 F (11.7 C) / 44 F (6.7 C) / 48 percent humidity
  • New Delhi: 74 F (23.3 C) / 48 F (8.9 C) / 71 percent humidity

Average Rainfall for December in Asia

  • Bangkok: 0.5 inches (13 mm) / average of 1 rainy day
  • Kuala Lumpur: 6.3 inches (160 mm) / average of 22 rainy days
  • Bali: 3.5 inches (89 mm) / average of 17 rainy days
  • Singapore: 5.8 inches (150 mm) / average of 18 rainy days
  • Beijing: 0.1 inches (2.5 mm) / average of 2 wet days
  • Tokyo: 2 inches (51 mm) / average of 1 wet day
  • New Delhi: 0.2 inches (5 mm) / average of 2 rainy days

Temperatures in many parts of Southeast Asia will be even more pleasant than usual, with inclement weather less of a concern than during other times of the year. Although certainly warm, December is a comfortable month to travel in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar (Burma) after the monsoon season (hopefully) finishes in November. Rain isn't a serious disruption, and days aren't nearly as hot as they will be in March and April.

China, Japan, Korea, and the rest of East Asia will be cold. You'll have to escape to the southern parts of these countries to enjoy milder weather. The average temperature of Seoul in December is 32 degrees F. In chilly Beijing, expect an average of 28 degrees F. Tokyo does a little better with an average temperature of 46 degrees F.

Although Singapore maintains a pretty steady climate and receives rain year round, December is often the wettest month of the year. Destinations such as Bali and much of Indonesia will be getting heavy rain in December. Bali and neighboring islands are best enjoyed in the spring and summer months.

The Himalayan destinations in North India and Nepal will be plagued with snow. Many mountain passes and roads become closed. But if you are willing to brave the weather, low humidity and fresh snow provide the most impressive scenery on earth.

What to Pack

If traveling to East Asia, warm layers are the way to go! Packing bulky warm clothing can take up a lot of space in luggage. Buying hats, scarves, and other accessories can be done once you arrive; then you get to take home a wearable memento from your trip.

If traveling to Bali or Singapore, some lightweight rain gear could come in handy but isn't necessary. No need to pack an umbrella; inexpensive ones will be for sale everywhere.

December Events in Asia

Any of these big festivals and holidays in Asia may affect your travel plans if you're in the area.

  • Christmas: (December 25) Christmas is celebrated with excitement in a few countries throughout Asia, most notably the Philippines. Big cities in Asia will have decorations and observe Christmas as a secular event.
  • New Year's Eve: (December 31) Although many countries also observe the Lunar New Year in January or February (and sometimes one more traditional New Year celebration based on lunisolar calendars), December 31 doesn't go unnoticed. It's an official holiday in some Asian countries.
  • Father's Day in Thailand: (December 5) King Bhumibol's birthday on December 5 is an annual event in Thailand. Following his death in 2016, the new King of Thailand's birthday is July 28, but December 5 is Father's Day and a day for remembrance. The monarch is honored with candles and a moment of silence.
  • Dongzhi Festival in China: (Dates vary, but around December 22 each year). The Winter Solstice Festival in China welcomes the arrival of winter.
  • Thailand Full Moon Party: (Monthly; one party for Christmas and another party for New Year's Eve on December 31) Although the party takes place monthly, the December party is especially rambunctious.
  • Shogatsu in Japan: (Begins around December 30) Japanese New Year is one of the favorite festivals in Japan. The epicenter of the celebration is at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
  • Emperor of Japan's Birthday: (December 23) The Emperor of Japan's Birthday is one of only two days each year that people are allowed access to the palace grounds in Tokyo.

December Travel Tips for India

December is one of the best months to travel in much of India. Not only will the monsoon season be long over, but temperatures are also bearable. You may be able to get by with just three showers per day rather than the usual four required to survive the 100+ degree F daily temperature in New Delhi. Rajasthan, India's desert state, enjoys pleasantly cooler evenings than usual during December. As long as you don't go too high in elevation, almost all of India enjoys nice weather in December.

If India becomes too busy, December is a great time to grab a low-cost flight down to Sri Lanka for some beach time in the southern part of the island.

Christmas in Asia

Although it's mostly been adopted as a secular holiday from the West, Christmas has become somewhat of a "thing" in Asia with holiday celebrations all across Asia. Some countries have decorations up in October! Goa in India has a sizable Christmas celebration, as does the Philippines.

While Christmas in Asia certainly isn't the large-scale commercial event it is in the United States, big malls often decorate and hold special sales. Pubs and restaurants put together Christmas dinners for the expats living abroad. Couples and families may exchange a few gifts.

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