Christmas in Japan – How is Christmas Celebrated in Japan?

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Christmas has only been widely celebrated in Japan during the last decades. It still does not look like a holiday or religious celebration, since there are not many Christians in Japan.

Now several customs that came to Japan from the US are popular. How to send and receive Christmas cards and gifts. In Japan, Christmas is known as a moment to spread happiness instead of a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange gifts. In many ways, it looks like Valentine’s Day celebrations in the United Kingdom and the United States. Young couples like to go for a walk to see the Christmas lights and enjoy a romantic meal in a restaurant. Booking a table on Christmas Eve can be very difficult, as it is so popular!

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Christmas in Japan – How is Christmas Celebrated in Japan?

Fried chicken is often eaten on Christmas day. It is the busiest time of year for restaurants like KFC and people can place orders at their local fast food restaurant in advance. There was a KFC advertising campaign in 1974 called ‘Kentucky for Christmas!’ (Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!) Which was very successful and made KFC popular for Christmas!

The traditional Japanese Christmas food is the Christmas cake, but it is not a rich fruit cake, but it is usually a cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream.

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Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan. However, schools are often closed on Christmas Day. The Emperor’s birthday is a national holiday on December 23 and there is also a New Year’s school break. So the holidays often start around the 23rd. But most companies will treat the 25th as a “normal” workday.

Christmas in Japan – How is Christmas Celebrated in Japan?

A piece of music is especially famous at Christmas and at the end of the year in Japan: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and its final act, the “Ode to Joy”. Music is so famous that it is simply known as ‘daiku’ (meaning ‘number nine’). Choirs from across the country sing it in German. A choir in Osaka, has 10,000 people in it and is known as the ‘Number Nine Chorus’! It is believed that it was sung for the first time in Japan at Christmas by German prisoners of war in the First World War and over the years it became more and more popular.

In Japanese Happy / Merry Christmas is ‘Meri Kurisumasu’. And it’s written in the two Japanese scripts like this; Hiragana: り す ま; Katakana: マ.

Children’s parties are often held, with games and dances. The Japanese Christmas cake is a cake decorated with trees, flowers and a figure of Santa Claus.

Christmas in Japan – How is Christmas Celebrated in Japan?

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In Japan, Santa is known as ス ン タ ー ス -santa-san (Mr Santa). Another Japanese gift carrier is Hoteiosho, a Japanese god of the good fortune of Buddhism who is not really related to Christmas.

The Japanese New Year (called ‘or shogatsu’) is more like a traditional Western Christmas. The new year is the period when families gather, have a special meal, pray and send greeting cards. The new year is celebrated for five days, from December 31 to January 4, and it is a very busy time.

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