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Christmas in Japan

Christmas is obviously a major seasonal, cultural, and retail event for many Christian-majority countries. Japan does not designate Christmas as a public holiday, as some countries do, but Christmas has transcended its theological roots and become a purely social holiday. And while people do not get the day off from work, many people celebrate Christmas or get into the spirit through decorations and activities.

Here are some examples of how Japan celebrates Christmas:

Department stores host Santa-impersonators to entertain children, and many establishments set up themed illumination displays. Christmas songs can also be regularly heard in stores in the weeks leading up to 25 December.
Even e-Jan sets up a twinkling Christmas tree in the entrance and has a themed entrance board, shown above.

▲'J', an English teacher at e-Jan annually does Santa impersonations at public events

Certain foods have been designated as “Christmas food”. Kentucky Fried Chicken has a whole marketing campaign centered around Christmas, and as a result chicken has become the standard Christmas dinner.
Strawberry shortcake has been deemed “Christmas cake”, because of its red and white coloration is similar to Santa Claus’ red and white ensemble. Many bakeries, groceries, and conbini take reservations for Christmas cakes.

Overall, many Japanese children receive presents, though the scale at which the holiday is celebrated is dependent on the family. Christmas Day (25 December) in Japan is not especially celebrated, and Christmas Eve takes center stage as a day for people in romantic relationships. Christmas Eve in Japan is a romantic holiday for young couples akin to Valentine’s Day.

Every country and individual that celebrates Christmas does so in their own, unique way, and Japan is no exception. The co-opting of Christmas is something that, while not traditional, brings light and cheer to a particularly dark and cold time of year.

Wishing you all a safe, enjoyable holiday season, and a Happy New Year. See you in 2018!
-N.M. (U.S.A.)