Merry Christmas


2007 Tokyo Midtown Christmas Lights

Today marks the 4th Christmas in a row that I have spent in Japan.  I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas wherever you are and I hope the holidays haven’t been stressful.

Christmas in Japan is a very unique, yet very commercial experience.  It has been written in many places that Christmas starts around Halloween.  This is very true.  I have been listening to Christmas music in Starbucks for the last 2 months now.  In fact, Christmas starts rolling out about a week or two before Halloween.  Without Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day) or US Thanksgiving, there is no other holiday to signal the start of the Christmas season.   However, unlike America and Canada, Christmas is generally isolated to a few homes and most shops.  There just isn’t the overload of Christmas lights, unless you go looking for it.  Thankfully, in Tokyo, you can either hide from it, or find it pretty easily.

2007 Christmas Illumination in Hibiya Park

So what happens in Japan?  Well, Christmas is celebrated on December 24th, not the 25th as in North America.  They tend to side with Europeans in having a big meal on Christmas Eve.  However, unlike the family event that happens in North America and Europe, it’s a couples affair.  People go on dates to KFC.  Yes, KFC.  Somehow, the Colonel had the marketing genius to turn Christmas into the one day most Japanese people eat fried chicken.  I believe this is an Australian thing.  One of my Aussie friends said he eats fried chicken for Christmas.  That’s too bad, because I love to eat turkey for Christmas.  If a couple is still young in love, they tend to go to a romantic restaurant.  It’s very nice, but good luck finding a restaurant on Christmas Eve.  The only good thing is that Christmas dinner itself is easy to find.

2008 JR Christmas Decorations in Shinjuku Southern Terrace

If you are religious (Christian), finding a church is relatively simple in Tokyo.  Midnight mass is always easy to remember, and it is still beautiful.  As always, it will be different depending on which church you attend, but it’s still nice to go.  The only difference is that you’ll always see at least one group of young teens/adults that go in casual clothes and wild hair expecting something special.  Generally, they leave before the services even start.

On December 25th, if you are expecting to celebrate Christmas, good luck.  Unfortunately, they tend to tear down all of the decorations and replace them with New Year’s decorations.  It’s a very short time to change, but I always wish they’d keep the Christmas decorations up ON CHRISTMAS DAY!  Oh well, that’s Japan.

Merry Christmas (2008) is part of a series of posts each year talking about the year end holiday season in Japan.  To read more, please venture to the other posts below: