12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 4: Death Note

Wait… Death Note has a Christmas episode? Well, sort of.

There’s presents, lights, a tree, snow, and warm winter coats involved—Oh, and the criminal investigation of the century.

With that level of seriousness, you’d think that neither our detective heroes nor our sly villains would take the time to participate in the holiday festivities, but between episodes 33 and 34 (chapters 92-93, if you’re a manga reader) that’s exactly what happens. Near even decorates a Christmas tree, rooted in presents, in the secret HQ. Maybe that’s simply because Near’s obsession with toys rivals L’s addiction to sugar, but regardless of motivation, he gets into the spirit of the season in his own unique way.

Near death note Christmas
Apparently, decorating your tree with handheld video game systems is a thing in the Death Note universe… Matt probably started it.

I have to wonder why Christmas is deliberately included in the Death Note narrative. Sure, there’s the realism factor of a plot taking place during wintertime in the United States, but Death Note is a franchise that has proven time-and-again its acclimation of Christian imagery. Crucifixes and angels are portrayed alongside more commercialized icons on Near’s Christmas tree—a sort of microcosmic parallel to Death Note’s walk-the-line approach between humanism and spirituality—but more likely than that, I think Christmas is included in the story because it represents hope. Perhaps, it’s no coincidence that the seven-year-long case is solved just one month later, when Kira is brought to justice.

Whatever the case, Death Note creator, Tsugumi Ohba, seems to have a thing for Christmas, including it in the main narrative, dedicating at least two short manga spoofs to the holiday, and even approving of L and Light Christmas-themed Nendoroid figurines.

But for once, I want to step back from over-analyzing symbolism and look at a simple, fundamental principle conveyed through Death Note’s inclusion of Christmas: Christmas always comes, regardless of circumstances.

This year, I fell prey to Christmas pressure. The college semester carried halfway through December, keeping me preoccupied with exams, literature reviews, and research papers—not very festive stuff. I found myself juggling Christmas lists for friends and family, striving to uphold all my annual traditions, and basically cramming a month’s worth of December rituals into the space of about a week-and-a-half.

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You don’t want to be on Light’s “naughty list.”

Maybe it’s because Christmas is often paired with words like “memorable,” “magical,” and “most important,” that people like me feel stress during the holiday season. We’re pressured into qualifying Christmas as an unforgettable day on our calendar when, in reality, it’s unforgettable in its own right, whether we’re able to fully celebrate it or not. It’s the day our King came to earth, offering humanity that “thrill of hope” it had long been promised. In that regard, there’s really nothing we can “add to it” to make it more “memorable.”

I guess one thing I got from Death Note’s handling of Christmas is that we’re not required to make Christmas into something special—it’s already that on a fundamental level. Rather than stress—which honestly takes a lot of the “magic” out of the season—we should simply enjoy whatever we are able to accomplish. Maybe that’s spending a nice Christmas Eve dinner with friends and family. Maybe that’s putting a few decorations around the house and giving a gift or two.

Circumstances happen, but whether we’re wallowing through a jam-packed December, or too busy solving the crime of the century to engage in all of our traditions, we shouldn’t put too much pressure on ourselves to have “the most memorable” holiday season ever.

I remind myself that I can’t use nostalgia as a comparison or even as an end-goal state. Memorable Christmas moments are about novelty—finding new ways to be grateful and find joy in the year 2015, not trying to relive the exact moments of the year 2005 or 2009 or 2013. It’s these unique life experiences that make every day of our lives special—no single moment can ever be perfectly replicated.

And, besides, Christmas for Christians really isn’t a “one-day thing.” For us, Christmas marks the beginning of a lifelong celebration of hope, freedom, and a fellowship with our Savior. It’s the moment that Christ came to Earth to connect with us personally.

And that should give me more than enough reason to celebrate every single day—Christmas or otherwise.

featured image by あしたばてんぐ | reprinted with permission

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