Christmas: How do the Japanese usually celebrate the date?

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In Japan, 99% of the population is Buddhist or Shinto, with few Christians. So, the Christmas it is more considered a magical moment of spreading happiness and love, than a religious celebration like many countries.

Having the initial points in view, it is important to emphasize that Christmas in Japan has no religious meaning, and there is no common feeling of gathering the whole family for supper or the traditional exchange of gifts. 

To facilitate the understanding of this whole subject, how about delving into our article and even knowing what are the food traditions of these people during the Christmas season? – I guarantee you will be surprised, as there is a strong difference when compared to Brazil.

Learn about Christmas in Japan

However, despite not having the same symbols and traditions, the Japanese adopted several Western customs. In addition, to facilitate understanding, we can mention the following aspects:

  • Decorate trees;
  • Decorate the lights of the whole city;
  • Send and receive cards;
  • Send and receive Christmas gifts. 

In other words, they ended up adopting a fashion that has been growing every year, especially among young people – who must take it further and further, passing it from generation to generation.

Thus, since November, the streets are full of Christmas decorations, so the christmas decoration for cities fills the streets and some houses, which are also integrated into the environment. 

As a result, the entire space is taken over by gigantic lighting, beautifully decorated trees and ambient music in the stores – which are even ready to sell their sweets, cakes, clothes and themed decorations of the time in question.

Christmas in Japan – how do the Japanese celebrate kurisumasu?

Learn about the history of Christmas in Japan

Well, in 1914, Christmas illustrations were published in the children's magazine Kodomonosomo, published by Motoko Hanin and Yoshikazu Hanin. 

Even at that time, many other children's magazines and animations appeared, showing many illustrations related to Christmas and all its meaning and beauty. In this period, other illustrations and animations also became popular, creating a tradition.

It is also important to say that there is even an anime that shows this holiday well and brings the tradition of special nights between couples, it is called Amagami SS and is based on the novel of the same name. 

As for the tradition of gifts and decorations, it was popularized in 1930. Making several used wooden pallets sold out faster and faster, due to the high demand for buying gifts – which varied greatly in terms of options.

In addition to all the points already mentioned, in the 1960s, with the booming economy and the enormous influence of American television almost all over the world, Christmas became popular. 

Factors such as songs and TV dramas, as well as KFC's chicken advertising campaigns, made Christmas popular among the Japanese. 

Even after that, we can say that the delivery of gifts, as personalized corporate gifts, lights and romantic nights during the date ended up becoming quite traditional. 

Christmas in Japan – how do the Japanese celebrate kurisumasu?

Christmas in a romantic way and illuminated night

The origin of Christmas in relation to love between couples is something unknown, some people say that because it is a time of love and joy, they associate love with love between couples. 

But there is another story that goes back to the period of 1982, when a musical called “My Valentine is Santa Claus” reached the top of the charts and became very popular. 

In addition to everything that has already been said, it is also necessary to mention that many events are held throughout Japan. After all, it is a very happy time, in which malls in Japan are usually crowded, even making it difficult to access control of people.

However, the Japanese don't celebrate Christmas religiously, but in terms of party decorations, they put on a show! At that time, they do not skimp on the light and brightness of their cities. 

Even at the end of the year, when it is the beginning of winter in the country, it is necessary to warm up the nights, and the lights attract people to the street for a beautiful show, that is, it is a time when human warmth is present.

In addition, some Christmas activities take place in highly decorated and illuminated complexes, with a delicious Christmas atmosphere, great places with different technologies to visit and shop in self-service totems and other items.

Traditional japan lights, lamps and lanterns

Get to know a little about the main actions of the time

There is no shortage of options when we talk about Christmas for the Japanese, including the following among the main tours for the date:

  • Disney in Tokyo: everyone can be enchanted by various Christmas events;
  • Universal Studios: the colorful “Christmas Parade” attracts many people;
  • Confectioneries: traditional sweets demonstrate all the culture and representation;
  • KFC: Christmas combos that give a special taste for all families.

Events in Japan still have fireworks, special products like promotional backpacks, free sweets and a very special Christmas. In other words, it is a great place to spend Christmas with the family with the children.

Japan also hosts Christmas markets inspired by “old” Europe. In several cities across the country, markets offer everything from tree ornaments, typical foods, sweets and drinks such as wines, hot chocolates to blank labels.

Sweets are a must 

Some bakeries also make creative sweets (wagashi) for this season. Artistic and traditional sweets from Japanese confectionery represent the essence and refinement of Japanese culture.

With a light and delicate texture, they are usually made from rice flour, adzuki beans and agar-agar, a kind of gelatine made from seaweed. Originally they were served at banquets of the Homeric aristocracy and court and served with tea (matcha).

Another important culinary tradition of Christmas in Japan, are sponge cakes with frosting and filling with whipped cream and strawberry. This is a very common cake in Japan and is sold all year round, even in markets and convenience stores. 

Present at Christmas and birthdays, the cake gained popularity after Japan's defeat in World War II. It was a time of suffering and food shortages, and sweets were true luxury items. 

With the American occupation that forced the reconstruction of the country, sweets began to be seen as a hope for a better and more prosperous future. As the concept of Christmas entered the country after the war, the economy also wanted to benefit from it. 

With ingredients now available and easily found in many markets and stores, this strawberry christmas cake became a symbol of overcoming. Strawberries and whipped cream were chosen because they represent the colors of the Japanese flag.

- kurisumasu keki: discover traditional Japanese Christmas cakes

We can't forget about savory dishes.

Also, every Christmas, millions of Japanese families buy their “supper” at KFC. In fact, this is the biggest tradition of the Japanese Christmas spirit. Demand is so high that people start ordering the special Christmas menu 6 weeks in advance.

It all started with Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the country's first KFC. After opening in 1970, Okawara came up with the innovative idea of selling special “party buckets” for Christmas.

The idea came about after he heard several foreigners complaining that they missed the typical food of their home country during that time. 

In 1974, KFC put its national marketing plan, called Kentucky for Christmas, into action. The advertising was so successful that Okawara quickly rose through the company, increasing his roles and responsibilities, until he became CEO of KFC Japan, between 1984 and 2002.

The Party Bucket became a national phenomenon almost instantly, taking on gigantic proportions, and until then there was no Christmas tradition in the country. 

Meals are big enough for an entire family and include not just fried chicken but also cake and salad depending on what you choose.

In addition, the campaign helped to publicize the company's "mascot", Colonel Sanders, who during the end of the year is dressed in Santa Claus clothes, which made him the image of Santa Claus in the country, making several families buy inflatable santa claus for that representation.

Christmas in Japan – how do the Japanese celebrate kurisumasu?

Final considerations

As seen in the content, it is easy to say that Japan has become a great postcard for the celebration of Christmas, bringing a totally different culture from the others, carrying several traditions that make the date unique in the country.

So, if you are curious about experiencing new cultures, now you know what to expect if you decide to spend the holidays with the Japanese people, especially with regard to food and traditions.

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