Merry Christmas from Tokyo!
The city is all lit up for the holidays, and all of the shopping malls are playing non-stop Christmas music (including that really annoying Destiny’s Child rendition of 8 days of Christmas. Yikes.). It almost feels like I haven’t left the states…..until I realize that I am a foot taller than everyone else and the only blonde for miles around. Christmas is celebrated much differently than in the states though. Obviously Japan isn’t really Christian-centric, so they have adopted this holiday and put their own spin on it. You probably guessed it…..they made it cuter.
Japanese Christmas: A couples holiday
Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, so schools and government building are normally open. The cool thing about Japan is that there are no political controversies involving having a tree or decorations up, so everyone displays Christmas trees, wreathes, and other decor. I had to giggle when I see a lot of the banners though. They often say: “Let’s Make a Christmas”.
Not only are there no signs of baby Jesus, nativity scenes, or crosses anywhere, but Japanese Christmas is celebrated much like Valentine’s day in the states. Couples give each other presents, go out on dates to all the illuminated gardens, and sip on Starbucks’ red-cupped lattes. Children and family members are still doted on, but less so.
When I say Christmas is for couples, I really mean it. Love hotels are often booked, magazines advertise how to have a successful Christmas date, and there is a huge push to find a boyfriend or girlfriend before Christmas. Christmas eve is actually the day that is celebrated, rather than Christmas itself. Why is it so romanticized, you ask? Because of all of the lights, sparkles, and decorations! And a large portion of money spent on Christmas advertising causing social pressure to pair up and date.
While the Japanese don’t traditionally feast on stuffed turkey for Christmas, they do eat Chicken. Fried Chicken. Kentucky. Fried. Chicken. KFC. They eat KFC for Christmas dinner. No, I am not joking.
Apparently KFC is the most ordered meal for Christmas dinner in Japan. I really don’t know what to make of this. You can order ahead for a large party in order to make sure your KFC-catered dinner is…..perfection. I suppose.
Along with fried chicken, Japanese tend to drink a lot of wine on Christmas. This also confuses me, as I am not sure how palatable wine and fried chicken are. That is certainly a combination many people might wrinkle their noses at!
Japanse Christmas: Christmas Cake
This is another Japan-specific tradition. Everyone eats white cake with strawberries. You can find these little cakes EVERYWHERE. I have never heard of a Christmas cake, except the fruitcake kind that Great-Aunt-Mable makes that you try at length to avoid eating. For whatever reason, Christmas cake is everywhere. I even received some as a gift from my students. Thanks, kiddos.
Do you know any other oddball facts about Celebrating Christmas in Japan or otherwise abroad? Please share them with me below, I’d love to hear all of the adaptations of Christmas across the world!