Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas in Japan

With only less than 1 percent of Japan's population being Christian, Christmas here lacks all spiritual meaning. Instead it is a very commercial holiday, more like Valentine's Day in the United States. Gifts are many times romantic in nature. Some shops are decorated in hearts and talk about "Christmas Love". And for some strange reason there are Christmas costumes, such as reindeer, Santa girls, and snowmen, for adults (yes I said ADULTS) everywhere. I am not quite sure I want that fascination explained to me. Shops, restaurants, businesses are open on Christmas Day. It is almost like any other day. It is a cute holiday with very little tradition.

When talking with my hairdresser a few weeks ago, he did tell me Santa comes for younger children. But there is no milk and cookies the night before. In fact, he thought the idea of leaving Santa cookies was rather odd. There is no jolly Santa sitting in shopping areas waiting for kids to come tell their wish list. No stockings hung by the chimney with care. No cute songs about Dasher, Dancer and Rodolph. 

There is some tradition for what a family may do on Christmas Eve. A KFC Christmas Chicken Dinner is quite popular. Some Japanese will make reservations for their "Christmas Chicken" ahead of time and then line up outside their local store to pick up their orders. Thanks to KFCs brilliant marketing effort, the Japanese believe Westerners celebrate Christmas with a chicken dinner instead of ham, turkey or beef.  Christmas Eve is celebrated by eating a "Christmas Cake".  Stores everywhere have elaborately decorated, small, homemade cakes (which cost about $45 USD and up), which people can preorder and pick up just before or on Christmas Eve.

Here are a few examples of what the cakes look like. And if you look closely, there is not a single fruitcake on the list.

I will take a pass on the KFC dinner, but I wonder how much convincing it would take to get Matt on board with the Christmas cake. A way to a man's heart is through his stomach right?

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