December 26, 2009

Observing Christmas Day in Japan

The day after Halloween, Christmas decorations went up. Our commercial center is as decorated as in any western country, and there's a park filled with people admiring the lights and Christmas tree (which will go down today, along with all the little mechanical dancing Santas along the main street, leaving just the lights, which will now be New Year decorations.

This is also the month of the bounenkai (forget-the-year-parties) which companies host for their employees. Picture groups staggering out of restaurants discussing where they will go for the 'second (or third) party. Most folks also get bonuses this month, so it's a shopping month too-- many for Christmas presents, even though they might have a difficult time explaining the meaning of Christmas, since perhaps only one percent of Japan is Christian.

To further mix things up, the twenty-third of December is a national holiday, the emperor's birthday-- but not Christmas day.

On Christmas Eve, bakeries and supermarkets sell very popular 'Christmas Cakes'. Restaurants benefit also, as they are full of young couples as it's a special 'date night'-- Christmas IS about love, right?

I don't mind the fuss, for if there were no commercial “Reason for the Season”, then there would be no reason for Japanese to ask-- even if it's only voicing a nagging question at the back of their minds, “What does all of this really mean?”

I go about I sporting a Santa hat and am regaled with “Santa!” wherever I go, while I happily give out printed Christmas messages-- about 300 this year-- that they eagerly take and read, assuming that, since I'm a Westerner, this is the accepted thing to do.

Wherever you are and however you celebrate this Christmas, may you have a wonderful love-filled day.


There was a gift to each of us left under the tree of life 2000 years ago by Him whose birthday we celebrate today. The gift was withheld from no man. Some have left the packages unclaimed. Some have accepted the gift and carried it around, but have failed to remove the wrapping and look inside to discover the hidden splendor. The packages are all alike: in each is a scroll on which is written, “All that the Father hath is thine!” Take and live!"―Frank S. Mead

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