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Celebrating Christmas the Japanese Way


Every country in the world has its own way of celebrating Christmas. While most Western countries celebrate Christmas with religious traditions, Christmas in Japan is merely a celebration for commercial reasons and some traces of western practices. It is not also a national holiday so expect children in school and people at work during Christmas morning.

That doesn’t mean that Japan has boring Christmas celebrations but still, they’ve got glamorous Christmas decorations and top-notch Christmas foods to eat.

History of Christmas in Japan

Christmas decorations at michi no eki (road station)

Japan was isolated from the world for a long time. When Japan opened its doors to the world during the Meiji period, western influences took place as Westerners would bring Christmas items from abroad. After World War II, Santa Claus, Christmas cake, and gift-giving traditions were introduced. Until the present day, it is commonly practiced and unique ways of celebrating Christmas were formed through the years.

Typical Christmas season in present-day Japan

Illuminations at a public park.

The Japanese Christmas season in modern times revolves around families and couples. In fact, Christmas eve resembles Valentine’s day in Japan. Couples dine in posh restaurants, see winter illuminations together and go ice skating.

For families, children receive a gift from Santa during kindergarten and community activities. But New Year actually is a big celebration in Japan where children receive money allowance in envelopes called otoshidama.

Christmas decorations at a shopping mall.

Shopping is vibrant with department stores lavishly decorated with trees, wreaths, and Christmas lights after Halloween. These decorations will stay until the night of December 25 and abruptly change to New Year’s decorations on the 26th of December. Absolutely different from most countries where Christmas decorations are still on display until January 1st of the next year.

Winter illuminations are popular during the Christmas season and add that holiday spirit feeling. They happen all over the country, especially in big cities.

Christmas foods to try

KFC Chicken meals

Photo by Aleks Dorohovich on Unsplash

Christmas in Japan is not complete without the famous KFC chicken meals. KFC’s marketing method definitely won the hearts of the Japanese. The food photography in print ads and the actual meal itself speak to high-quality, visually appealing chicken dishes. It is commonly purchased in supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide. Usually ordered ahead of time.

Strawberry shortcake

The heart of the Christmas party is the popular Ichigo no shortcake. The symbolic red and white color resembles the Japanese flag and it is also about Japan’s rise from the war. The whipped cream is rare and it also resembles the snow in winter. Although Japanese strawberry shortcake is available whole-year round, in Christmas it is decorated with chocolate greeting bars, miniature Santa Claus, and trees together with the sliced strawberries. They are sold everywhere from bakeries and supermarkets to department stores and small shops.

Clubhouse sandwiches and Sparkling soda drinks

Image by NickyPe from Pixabay

These food and drinks complete the Christmas party. Sandwiches and soda drinks in tall-stemmed wine glasses give that party vibe feeling!  Popular among children’s party drinks is the Chanmerry which resembles like a bottle of champagne. It is a carbonated sweet drink that comes in peach and rose flavor and is usually consumed during birthdays, Christmas, and New Years’ eve celebrations.

Christmas in Japan indeed has its own fun, delicious foods, and meaningful traditions. Wherever you may travel in the future, Japan is a great place to experience Christmas at least once in a lifetime.





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