Christmas in Japan

In the United States and Canada, Christmas is considered one of the single most important events of the year. However, in Japan Christmas is a much smaller holiday.

Growing up in the US, I was always excited about Christmas, because it meant that I would have time off from school and every three or four years, I would get to travel during the break. Here in Tokyo, only some international schools take time off and public schools take no time off for Christmas. Christmas is a working holiday and more of a shopping holiday than a cause for celebration.

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People purchase Christmas cakes and fried chicken (often at KFC.) There is a belief that westerners celebrate Christmas with turkey which is very hard to come by in Japan, so fried chicken replaces it. Also, during the 1980’s KFC launched a massive advertising campaign that turned this into a national belief. Grocery stores start putting out brochures in November to advertise cakes you can buy. This idea comes from the fact that Christmas in the west represent Jesus’ Birthday and we eat cakes for birthdays. Christmas cake is a special type of cake similar to the white spongy cakes we call vanilla cake. It is normal adorned with frosting and strawberries.

When Christmas is celebrated, it is normally celebrated by couples on Christmas Eve. Basically a gift exchange, some KFC, and a bit of cake while hanging out or going on a date.

Christmas is a little overshadowed by the fact that December 23rd is the Emperors Birthday. Also, New Years on January 1st is traditionally one of the most celebrated holidays outside of possibly the holidays of Golden Week in May.


8 thoughts on “Christmas in Japan

    1. The Imperial family is shown and the nation basically just takes notice. There is a superstition dating back to when the Emperor was considered a God that says that if you get pregnant on this day, it will bring good fortune. I am not completely sure what the root of it is, but I have been told it is connected to Shinto-ism.

  1. hmmm interesting. All this time I thought that those schools were going on winter break around christmas time. When is winter break then if almost no one takes it off?

    1. oh by the way i can attest to the fact that we in america buy a lot of cakes for christmas as well how do i know? i work in the bakery department of a store and this time of year is second only to graduation for the # of cake orders.

      1. I have never had cake on christmas, so that is interesting to hear. Then again, I am from Alaska and normally have salmon as the main dish.

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