Christmas in Japan   クリスマス

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The Christmas tree in front of Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo.

The Christmas tree in front of Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo.

What would a Christmas without snowman.

What would a Christmas without snowman?

A Christmas in Japan, major retailers offer mini-sales and promotions.

A Christmas in Japan, major retailers offer mini-sales and promotions.

In Japan, Christmas is more like the celebration of love at the birth of Jesus.

In Japan, Christmas is more like the celebration of love at the birth of Jesus.

A romantic December 25th

Christmas has naturally found a place in Japan, a country that loves to give gifts.  It has become a second Valentine's Day, celebrated more by lovers than by families.

The spirit of Christmas isn't really found in the hearts of Japanese people, but rather in shops and malls. With the majority of the population being Buddhist and Shinto, celebrating December 25th in Japan began with the commercial aspect of it all. Retailers began to put on sales to sell their old stock before the end of the year, and the promotions attracted customers looking for bargains. Family is of course still a priority, particularly children. And because Japanese kids now believe in Santa Claus, they do often receive presents under their bed or in their room, but very rarely at the foot of a tree.

Romance under the tree

In fact, Christmas Eve in Japan is really an evening of love. Comparable to Valentine's Day, it's almost expected that a man invites his girlfriend to a nice restaurant before a night at a luxury hotel. Consequently, hotel bookings are very hard to find at short notice on the 24th, because eager couples often reserve their rooms months in advance. And if you're not already a couple before December 24th, singles are invited to declare their love on Christmas Eve.

Different traditions

Christmas is foreign in Japan when it comes to food as well. As couples head to fancy restaurants to mark the occasion, families enjoy the comforts of home. It's usually chicken for Christmas dinner - in fact, takeout from KFC is particularly popular! Dessert is a Christmas cake, although not the fruit cake we might expect, instead a delicate vanilla sponge cake layered with whipped cream and strawberries.

And although December 25th isn't a national holiday, Japan celebrates the birthday of the current emperor Akihito, two days before on December 23rd.


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