Christmas in Japan

Posted: 07/01/2021
Category: Japanese Holidays

The Christmas holiday found its way to the Japanese Islands in 1549, with the introduction of Christianity by the Jesuit missionary Francisco de Xavier, for a short time, but given that in 1614, the Shogunate Tokugawa banned Christianity and all which, at that time, meant Christian traditions.

Christmas once again found its way into Japanese culture in the 1870s as part of the religious freedom movement during the Meiji Restoration, but disappeared again during World War II. After the war, Christmas was reintroduced, gaining widespread acceptance. Since then, the Christmas season in Japan has been full of significance and it is very visible in society.

The frenzy of Christmas preparations starts in November, and the light show always seems like another challenge, eagerly awaited by every inhabitant. In fact, almost every building owner turns into a real craftsman who directs his own show of lights and scenery, so that in the evening, everything becomes magical. The Japanese have borrowed a lot of specific Christmas customs, such as sending and receiving greeting cards and gifts.

And because there is no Christmas Eve without Santa's gifts, in Japan there is a Buddhist deity, known as Hoteiosho (ほていおしょ), a character similar to Santa Claus. He is always described as an old man carrying a huge package with him. According to popular belief, Hoteiosho (ほていおしょ) has eyes behind him, and children must be good and kind when this all-seeing character is around.

An appearance of Santa Claus is also expected at Tokyo Disneyland, which hosts the annual Christmas parades in December. It's everything you'd expect from a Christmas parade, from fun, festive costumes and music to candy gifts. Tokyo Disneyland is not only a great place for families with children, but it is also a popular location for couples on Christmas Eve.

Christmas is an opportunity for the Japanese to spread happiness. Christmas Eve is at the height of the festivities, especially since it is perceived as an occasion to crown romance, in which couples spend time together and give each other gifts, just like on Valentine’s Day. This vibration enters the paired souls, the unpaired ones align, reaching that joy and happiness specific to Christmas, regardless of the meridian on which it is celebrated.

As for Christmas cooking habits, a successful advertising campaign in the 1970s turned the consumption of KFC products into a national custom at this time of year. KFC chicken menus are so popular at Christmas that stores make reservations months in advance.

And as joy must be celebrated, the Christmas cake that has become a tradition in Japan is called Kurisumasu keiki (クリスマスケーキ) and is made from a fluffy dough with cream and strawberries.

However, the sweet taste of Christmas is slowly receding to make way for the beginning of the year. In the remaining respite, the Japanese houses go through a purification ritual, to allow the beginning of the new year, which they greet with the wish that we send from the bottom of our hearts to all our friends, Akemashite-omedetou-gozaimasu! (あけましておめでとうございます)

Christmas cake
Christmas cake

Kobe Luminarie 2021
Kobe Luminarie 2021

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