Today is Christmas in Japan, and tomorrow is Christmas for me.
Christmas and Japan really seem to have a strange relationship with each other. It does seem that Japanese do celebrate Christmas – in their own way. It’s been stripped of any religious or spiritual significance, and has been converted into a time where people eat fried chicken.
It will, perhaps, surprise Japanese people that that is not a tradition here. It turns out that someone lied a long time ago and said that KFC is a tradition in America. Trust me. It isn’t, and it surprises us whenever someone tells us how big a deal it is in Japan. But even so, every culture needs its own traditions, and I could think of worse.
Christmas means different things to different people here. For some people, it is the celebration of their savior’s birth. For others, it’s a time to eat good food with family and watch football. For others, it is a lonely time as they think about family they lost. Some people will be spending their first Christmas alone. For good or bad, it is a matter of cultural identity for us Americans, much like the sakura trees are for Japanese people. It’s one day out of the year where things are completely quiet, no stores are open, and there is a certain amount of peace where there usually isn’t. All of the ruckus and hubbub leading up to the holiday is replaced by peace, as children open their presents in the morning, people sing carols, have parties, and for just one day it seems everyone forgets the rest of the year and tries to focus on what really matters.
No matter how you spend Christmas, whether it is a special day, a not so special day, a day full of fried chicken or roast turkey, or soda and chips from the local konbini, I wish you a happy one.