Christmas Celebrations in Japan

Do Oriental cultures like Japan and Chine celebrate Christianity with the same gusto as their Occidental or Western counterparts? How does Japan celebrate Christmas? What are the Christmas traditions in Japan?

This write-up would try to answer many of the above questions. What we need to know straight away is that the two main religions followed in Japan are Buddhism and Shinto. Christianity is followed by only about two million Japanese. Most of them reside in the western parts of the country where they came under the influence of the missionaries in the 16th century.

Despite such a small population of Japanese subscribing to the Christian faith and despite the fact that Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, more and more people are beginning to express the same excitement for Christmas as the westerners. Christmas in Japan symbolizes a festival of carols, Christmas trees, Christmas cakes, Santa Kurohsu, gifts and peace. Santa in Japan is an old priest called Hoteiosho believed to have eyes on his back. Children behaving wisely are rewarded by this old gentleman.

The result of globalization is that Christmas traditions have made inroads into the Japanese culture and this is now felt at a mush faster rate. Shops, malls and restaurants are well decorated with beautifully lightened up Christmas trees. Some households are also beginning to have artificial Christmas trees within their premises. The trees are nicely decorated with small toys, paper ornaments, the ‘origami’, wind chimes and the like.

During the holiday season, starting from Mid November to New Year and some extending till the Valentine’s Day in February, Japan displays some of the most spectacular illuminations. Of utmost significance is the lighting of the Italian designed tunnel called the Kobe Luminarie.

Some famous illumination spots of interest in Tokyo include the Shinjuku, Ginza, Tokyo Midtown, Odaiba, Tokyo Dome City, Akasaka Sacas, Yebisu Garden Place and Roppongi Hills. If you happen to visit Japan during the holiday season, then you would know how these illuminations are such a classic display of art and technique.

In consonance with the spirit of the holiday spirit, Christmas trees are often placed in hospitals so that the sick get rejuvenated and can enjoy the flavor of the holiday season.

Another famous Christmas tradition that has been widely appreciated and adopted by the Japanese is the nativity scene with the image of baby Jesus in a cradle. People in Japan, like other oriental cultures, have a deep-rooted family feeling and the story of Jesus born in a manger has been of popular appeal to the little girls in Japan.

Integral to the celebration of Christmas in Japan is the Christmas cake. Most Japanese celebrate Christmas with a Christmas cake which is a sponge cake made of strawberries and whipped cream.

The Japanese celebrate New Year with a lot of enthusiasm. It is the time for forgetting past mishaps and start afresh. The households are cleaned and decorated and the head of the family marches through the house, along with his family, throwing dried beans in all directions to ward off evil forces and welcome good luck.