Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Better Know a Christmas: Japan

It's nearly a week until Santa comes to do his yearly job of defying all physics to deliver gifts to all of the good, sleeping children of the world whilst dodging winds, NORAD, and surface-to-sleigh missiles. But I'm living in America, while awesome, I can't help but think of how this holiday is celebrated elsewhere in the world. I've looked around, and several places around the world have pretty kick-ass traditions.

The first in a series of International Christmas Celebrations, tonight we start with one of my favorites, Japan.

With all of the yearly stories about how the religious nuts are exaggerating the so-called "War on Christmas" that seeks to secularize the hell out of celebrating the belated birth of Jesus Christ has apparently never been to Japan around this time of the year.

Since the main religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shintoism, Christmas is considered the quintessiential secular holiday: People realizing that stringing lights around the house and leaving the rotting corpse of a tree in your house for a month in the dead of winter seem to be the antics of a drunk man, but not caring since it gives them a reason to potentially bring shame to their families. The fact that it's the biggest money spending holiday of the year certainly doesn't hurt Japan's "OMG THAT LITTLE THING IS AWESOME" shopping mentality, either.

As for the gifts themselves, they're delivered to children, and ONLY TO CHILDREN by Santa. But don't believe everything that you hear on the Simpsons, he is NOT called "Annual Gift Man" nor does he live on the moon.

Season 8's "Homer's Phobia," in case you were wondering.

Sure, people give other people gifts, but where's the fun in that? For everyone else, the holiday is a time for romance, and it's important for women to have a date on Christmas Eve, when the Holiday is traditionally celebrated on. There used to be an old stereotype with dateless women over 25 being referred to as "Christmas Cake," after the custom of everyone buying Christmas cakes before the big day, and any cakes left over are the undesirables. Thankfully, since people are marrying later in their lives, this joke has dwindled down, and the undesirables simple choose to plummet out of windows than live through the shame of spending Christmas alone.

Then there's the traditional Christmas feast. While you might think of Turkey Ham, and dozen of cans of Who-Hash, Japan has none of those. Instead the traditional Japanese Christmas Dinner consists of a big ol' bucket of KFC Fried Chicken.

While places like Burger King and Wendy's are faltering there, the Colonel is a damn staple in the Land of The Rising Sun at this time of the year. I can imagine some Japanese equivalent of Ebeneezer Scrooge awakening after an epiphany and telling a young Japanese street urchin to buy the biggest bucket he can find to prevent his beleaguered assistant's malnourished son from dying.

To sum it up, I love Japan. Is there anything I left out? I know I have Japanese readers out there, I'd like to know.

...I'm completely serious about that KFC part, by the way.

Pics are from here, and here.


tokyo5 said...

You left a few details out...but mentioned many too.

How do you know about Japanese Xmas?

In Japan, Xmas Eve is bigger than Xmas.
Couples go on dates to look at the Xmas illumination (Xmas lights).

And Santa leaves a present near kids' pillows.

Dan said...

I just have one question. Why is Colonel Sanders holding a slice of watermelon?!?

tokyo5 said...

>I just have one question. Why is Colonel Sanders holding a slice of watermelon?!?

Because that picture was obviously not taken at Xmas time.

At KFC, the Colonel is dressed according to the season.
At Xmas time, he wears a Santa suit.

That photo was taken in the summertime.
The Colonel in that photo is wearing a ゆかた (Summer Kimono) and holding a watermelon (which is a sign of summer in Japan).