Borrowed cultures in Japan are mostly commercial events. Christmas day may not be a national holiday, but it is celebrated throughout Japan in quite an elaborate manner! With less than 1% of Japanese being Christians, it is indeed surprising to see the extent of Christmas fever, nationwide. Christmas Eve which is thought to be exclusively for romantic couples, is the most important day followed by Christmas Day, where families and friends enjoy a Christmas dinner, which always includes chicken and the Japanized version of the Christmas cake, covered with whipped cream and topped with mouthwatering, red strawberries. Since artificial food colors are strictly avoided by the Japanese, Christmas cookies or Christmas cakes decorated with fancy colors are rarely seen, except maybe in Western homes. There is also no egg nog, ginger bread, pies or figgy-pudding.
|My homemade Christmas Cake|
|Homemade Christmas Tree Salad|
Chicken is substituted for the traditional “Turkey” in Japan simply because Turkey’s are not readily available in Japanese supermarkets and the Japanese are not quite fond of the “smell”. This is where the commercial aspect overtakes tradition, and the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Japan leaves no stones unturned to deliver special Christmas, fried chicken with additional menus, and make huge profits along the way! Most people make reservations at KFC ahead of time, so as not to miss out on the new, Christmas Menu.
Christmas songs most popularly sung or played during the Christmas season include Jingle Bells, We wish you a Merry Christmas and Silent Night, which are often sung in Japanese, and the most frequently heard BGM around town would be “Last Christmas” by Wham and Mariah Carrey’s “All I want for Christmas is You.”
Christmas trees are never live trees, but artificial ones in different sizes, beautifully decorated and lighted up, adorning almost every home, school, office and shop.
Christmas presents are usually exchanged between romantic couples and friends, and the price of the gift is usually determined by depth of the relationship between the couple or frineds. Parents and grandparents buy children Christmas presents but when the children stop believing in Santa, the presents also stop coming! The variety of presents include flowers, jewelry, small trinkets, stuffed teddy bears and toys.
Christmas parties are arranged mainly by families with small children or young adults. The elderly who wish to join the Christmas celebrations buy expensive tickets to Christmas dinner shows hosted by famous celebrities at big hotels or famous restaurants. Christmas lighting or illuminations are displayed all over town soon after Halloween and usually last until New Year’s Eve.
|Around Okayama Station|
|Okayama City Illumination|
No matter what the form, the Japanese embrace the Christmas celebrations joyfully!