Ho Ho Ho, メリークリスマス!
First off, Christmas is not a holiday in Japan. Neither Christmas Eve nor Christmas Day is a day off from work. Less than one percent of the Japanese population is Christian. The big family holiday, Oshogatsu, (Japanese New Year’s season) is coming soon, so families don’t get together for the occasion.
It’s an event for two distinct groups: kids and couples. And most of the celebrating goes on, not on Christmas Day, but Christmas Eve.
A Child’s Kurisumasu in Japan is perhaps the most familiar. It entails presents, Santa, (and sometimes Hotei, the big fat guy in monks’ robes who is often confused in the West with Buddha) and sweets.
It also entails a KFC dinner, something people often reserve for months in advance. Why KFC? The tradition goes back only as far as 1974, when the fast food restaurant began advertising around December with images of “Kentucky for Christmas.” A super marketing win that has, 40 years later, become a tradition.
Usually the kids stay with Jiji-san and Ba-chan (Grandma and Grandpa) because the other kind of Kurisumasu is “Romantic Christmas” and is a time for Mom and Dad to have some “us time” together. Fancy dinners, extravagant gifts, and romantic walks in the snow to look at the eye-popping Christmas light displays in Tokyo are on the agenda. It’s not just for married couples either: during courtship Romantic Christmas has become a big deal.
Of course, if you are single, it’s not really a great time. Neither is Valentine’s Day or White Day. There’s been a bit of a backlash of late about “Romantic Christmas,” including a restaurant that has taken a stand about NOT seating couples for romantic dinners this year.
And when the calendar page for December 25th gets ripped down, so do all the Christmas decorations. Oshogatsu is on the way, and preparing for the Oshogatsu season is serious business.
We’ve compiled a playlist of videos that give more detail on Kurisumasu in Japan. Enjoy!