With Christmas a little over a week away, I thought I would research the holiday and compare it with the traditions we hold over here in the west. I found that it was a holiday that was celebrated pretty differently.
Christmas in Japan is more of a celebratory day instead of a religious holiday like over here in the US. It is not a national holiday, so all banks, business and schools are open for the day. A lot of people in Japan choose to celebrate Christmas Eve, the 24th, as the holiday instead. Christmas in Japan is considered more of a romantic holiday, comparable to Valentine’s Day. It is a day where couples go on fancy dates and exchange gifts, not spending it with their family.
The gift giving part of Christmas in Japan is very different from the US, not a lot of people exchange gifts but if they do they are small rather inexpensive gifts. Some examples would be teddy bears, flowers, small toys and the like.
The big thing to get in Japan around Christmas time is KFC’s famous Christmas Chicken Dinner. The craze started in 1974 with a “Christmas Chicken Campaign” that had a group of foreigners go to KFC for dinner because of the inability to get turkey on Christmas. This campaign was a mega success to say the least. They offer a full on Christmas Bucket which comes with the chicken, wine, cake and champagne all for a nice price of about $40. People go crazy over the bucket and a lot of times will have to order it in advance to ensure they will get one on Christmas.
Another tradition is what is called the Japanese Christmas Cake, which is a sponge cake topped with Whipped Cream and Strawberries. It is a cake traditionally eaten from the 23 – 25 of December and decorated with little Christmas trees and Santa’s for young children.
The more traditional holiday of the season is New Year’s. The day involves shrine visits, family gatherings and a more fancy dinner.