Christmas is Christmas no matter where you are, you might think to yourself. The month leading up to this event is full of illuminations, family gatherings, cookies, hot chocolate and other holiday fun. Or is it?
Japan is doing things a little bit differently. At first glance, especially when you look at pictures of an illuminated Tokyo, it is easy to believe that Christmas is celebrated just like anywhere else in the world. While there are certainly similarities, there are some things that are unique to the land of the rising sun. Today we want to introduce you to some of these differences so that you can understand a little bit more about the importance of this holiday in Japan.
Before we get into any further details we need to make one thing clear: Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan and people are expected to work on the 24th and the 25th of December.
Japanese people are known for being some of the hardest working people in the world, but having to work on Christmas might seem a little bit shocking to some of you. Keep in mind though that Japan is not a Christian country, thus this religious holiday is not considered a public holiday. To make those of you that are planning to work in Japan in the future feel a little bit better, just remember that at least everyone gets the 23rd of December off. Not because of Christmas though, but because of the Emperor’s birthday.
When you think of Christmas dinner, images of roasted meat, mashed potatoes, gravy, cookies and even more delicacies might come to your mind. Kentucky Fried Chicken is probably one of your last guesses.
It is true that the traditional Christmas meal is considered to be KFC in Japan. How this trend actually started is hard to tell, but many people blame a successful advertisement campaign of the 1970s. It made eating buckets of fried chicken look like the traditional thing to do on Christmas Eve and this habit has stayed until today. It has actually become so popular that reservations for special Christmas combos are accepted already months in advance.
So you had a long day at work and enjoyed your fried chicken, what will you do now? Eating Christmas cake is the next point on the To-Do list of Japanese Christmas.
Christmas cake is a fluffy sponge cake covered in white cream and fresh strawberries. Even though there might be some variations out there, this traditional version of the Christmas cake is eaten all over the country. Similar to KFC, you should order your food way in advance, otherwise your favorite Christmas cake might already be taken. There are always other options though, since this cake is popular enough to even be sold at most local convenience stores.
Enough talk about food and Japanese working culture. After all, Christmas is all about being with your family, right?
Not in Japan. Of course, families with young kids will spend this day together and celebrate their family bond in the spirit of the season. However, starting from your teenage years Christmas becomes a dating event similar to Valentine’s Day. If you are in a relationship, you will spend this evening together with your loved one rather than with your parents or siblings. During the holiday season you will see a lot of lovebirds on the streets as well as special couple events and discounts. Naturally, this can lead to pressure on single people and many of them are known to jump into relationships just so they won’t be alone on Christmas Eve.
Were you surprised by some of these differences? For many people, Christmas is one of the hardest holidays to be separated from your family and being in a different country with different holiday traditions can make it even harder. Nevertheless, it is always helpful to be aware of these differences and to try and embrace them. Why not celebrate Christmas the Japanese way this year?
What do you think of Christmas in Japan and how does your country differ? Share your holiday experiences in the comment section down below!