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Christmas in Japan

Christmas celebration in Japan

In Japan, Christmas is observed on the 25th of December.

Here the festival is less a religious occassion and more a commercial event owing to the fact that only about 1% of the Japanese population is estimated to be Christian. Buddhism and Shintoism is the major religion in Japan. Christmas was initially introduced to Japan with the arrival of the first Europeans in the 16th century. But the festival gained popularity only in recent decades due to increasing migration of people from all over the world to Japan.

Christmas celebration in Japan

In Japan, Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas Eve and not on December 25, the actual Christmas Day. Preparations for Christmas begin here several weeks before December 24. Shopping for the season begin in earnest right from the beginning of December. Retail stores and shopping malls are seen to be thronged by a great number of people who spend quite a sum on Christmas trees, Santa clauses, Christmas gifts and other seasonal decorations. Most Japanese people love to decorate their homes with evergreens and adorn the exteriors with electric lights during Christmas. Even business establishments house a Christmas tree to observe the season of Jesus. Handing over presents to friends and family members is also quite a popular tradition here. The festival culminates with everyone in the family partaking in a sumptuous meal specially prepared to mark the occassion. The traditional Japanese christmas food is the Christmas cake, generally made of sponge cake, strawberries and whipped cream. Fried chicken is often eaten on Christmas Day.

And yet, Christmas is not a family occassion in Japan. The occassion holds a special meaning mainly for young people, especially women and teenagers. For young children, it is the time to recieve presents from "Hotei-osho", a Buddhist monk who is seen as the Japanese equivalent of Santa Claus.
Hotei-osho is believed to leave presents in each house for the children. It is said that this benevolent monk has eyes in the back of his head, so children try to behave like he is nearby. Christmas for those in Sunday schools is the happiest day of the year. On Christmas Eve or Christmas night, the children carry out special programs that go on for hours and consist of song, recitation and drama performances.

For single women in Japan, the Christmas Eve evening is the time to spend quality hours with their special someone. Excessive media hype has led to the occassion being seen as a time to be spent with one's boyfriend or girlfriend in a romantic setting. Like Valentine's Day in the U.S., it is an occassion when men express their love to the women they want in their lives. Christmas presents given to girls are mainly consist Teddy Bears, flowers, scarves, rings and other jewelry items. Greeting cards are also given to friends during this time.

In Japan, everyone wishes another 'Meri Kurisumasu', meaning "Merry Christmas", during Christmastime.

Christmas in Japan

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