Christmas in Japan is governed by clever marketing more than evolved pagan and Judeo-Christian traditions.
Maybe the one thing that Xmas in Japan gets right is that lights and decorations need to come out about a month before the actual day. They string them up around the stations and department stores, the malls will erect giant corporately decorated trees. But the similarities in traditions end there really.
Some how Christmas dinner equals a whole roast chicken from KFC. There’s a limited number that each location can provide you have to reserve yours in advance. It comes with sides, but the bill will run you around $70… for a fricking chicken, the kind that you can get at Walmart for under $10. You can actually stop by any Costco in Japan and get a whole roasted chicken for around $10. If you ask any Japanese person what a traditional Christmas dinner is, they’ll 90% of the time say chicken, even if they never bother ordering an overpriced bird of their own. Kudos to KFC though, I wonder what kind of genius marketing campaign they ran where they managed to take the most abundant bird meat around and charge people like they’re ordering a slab of endangered tuna…
The other food that Japanese people love to eat on Christmas is the “Christmas cake”. Now I’ve never eaten Christmas cake, but cakes in general are very popular in Japan. They love to buy tiny little cakes that are intricately decorated like little edible pieces of art. Christmas cakes are typically white frosted short cakes decorated with strawberries. Not being a fan of sweet foods, I’ve never tried them, but I’m sure people who like eating sugar would enjoy them.
Sometimes people mistake Christmas Eve and Christmas day. For some people Christmas Eve is much more important because it’s a popular day for couples to go out on the town, have a nice dinner, visit a bar, stop by a love hotel, just spend some quality time together.
You don’t really get Christmas presents. A child might get one from their parents, but it’s usually nothing huge. I made the kids write down what they wanted for Christmas and the very question seemed to catch them by surprise. Some of them said very normal sounding gift ideas like video games, game consoles, iPods, and Walkmans, but some of the gift wishes threw me entirely like a carrot for a pet rabbit, edamame (boiled soybeans, a cheap snack), a book, pizza, miso soup, a pen, a pencil case, and some just couldn’t think of something they wanted for Christmas.
People are also overall ignorant about Christmas, or at least American Christmas. They know that there’s a reindeer with a likely radioactive nose that flies around the sky pulling an over weight senior citizen to the homes of sleeping children. But they can’t tell you the name of that red-nosed reindeer. I asked them where Santa Claus lives and they named everywhere, but the North Pole (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Russia, America, Brazil, Italy, Norway, Hong Kong…)
Overall, I loved my childhood Christmases. And when the day comes that I have a child or children of my own then I’ll try my best to make Christmas a fun and special time for them as well. Yet as an adult, it’s kind of nice to not be in a country where people go mad about Christmas. I don’t have to worry about offending anyone over writing Xmas shorthand. So Christmas stays with me in frozen memories and snapshots of Christmases past, while Christmas in Japan has no pressure and little stress.
Now New Years is an entirely different story…