As Christmas approaches, Matsuri decides to wage a one-woman battle against the holiday, proclaiming that her friends, family, and area residents should forgo the “foreign” celebration in lieu of a newly created one that will be sure to attract visitors to Raifuku Shrine.
At the recommendation of D.M. Dutcher, I decided to watch this episode of Kamichu!, even though I knew next to nothing about the series. It was relatively easy to catch on and understand the show and each of it’s main characters, though. For those uninitiated, Kamichu! follows Yurie, an otherwise normal schoolgirl who has become a Shinto god, and her friends Matsuri and Mitsue. There’s a sweet simplicity to the show, which is also demonstrated in how Christmas is presented. The series makes no qualms about it – Christmas is about presents, romance, cake, and Santa Claus.
The “lesson” from the episode, though, is perhaps just a little deeper. In trying to free her neighbors from a western religious holiday, Matsuri is instead impressing upon them her own, Yurie-centered thanksgiving day. Matsuri’s shy sister, Miko, is the one who delivers the main message at the end, saying that she’ll celebrate Christmas in her own way, with the implication that we should all do so and be open to one another.
In other words, this episode is a conservative, evangelical Christian’s nightmare.
A vocal minority in this country, the same protestors that boycott stores that wish “happy holidays” upon customers rather than a “Merry Christmas” would surely also dislike this episode, if anime was remotely on their radar.
But while the larger community of Christians might simply emphasize that unlike the episode’s implication, Christmas has one deeper and unmovable meaning (even if one chooses to ignore it or is unaware of it), the episode offers us an important insight that we might forget this time of the year. As Matsuri channels her best Lucy Van Pelt impression, she unwittingly reminds us of how easy it is to lose sight of what’s important during the holidays.
In the midst of the Christmas season, where the lure of commercialism pulls one way and a supposedly righteous indignation regarding the “reason for the season” pulls at the other, it’s important for Christians to sit back and remember that in the midst of it all, we need to avoid a cultural fight. If it’s a time of contemplation, we should instead use our time and energy to focus on our hearts (which is what God looks at, after all) and how we demonstrate love, both to Christ as we celebrate His birth, and to the world, whose redemption is the very reason why Christ was born.
In other words, don’t worry so much about “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Instead, make it merry or happy for those around you by sharing the love of the Savior, whose humble birth that so many (even Japanese gods) celebrate.