Christmas: How do Japanese people usually celebrate the date?

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.

Keeping 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 bringing the whole family together for supper or the traditional exchange of gifts. 


To facilitate understanding of this whole topic, why not go deeper into our article and even know 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.

Understand how Christmas works in Japan

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

  • Decorate trees;
  • Decorate lights across the 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 this further and further, passing on from generation to generation.

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

As a result, the entire space is filled with gigantic lighting, well-decorated trees and ambient music in the stores – which are even ready to sell their sweets, cakes, clothes and themed decorations from the period in question.

Christmas in japan - how do the japanese celebrate kurisumasu?

Learn a little about the history of Christmas in Japan

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

Even at that time, many other magazines and children's animations appeared, showing many illustrations related to Christmas and all its meaning and beauty. During 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, called Amagami SS and is based on the novel of the same name. 

Already on the tradition of gifts and decorations, it was popularized in 1930. Making diverse used wooden pallets sold out faster and faster, due to the high demand for buying gifts – which varied a lot 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 around the world, Christmas became popular. 

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


Even after that, we can say that the delivery of gifts, such 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 a bright 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 1982 period, 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 the Japanese territory. After all, it is a very joyful moment, in which shopping malls in Japan are often crowded, making it difficult for access control of people.

However, the Japanese don't celebrate religious Christmas, but in terms of party decorations, they put on a show! At that time, they didn't 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 heat up the nights, and the lights attract people to the street for a beautiful spectacle, that is, it is a moment when human warmth is present.

Furthermore, some Christmas actions take place in highly decorated and bright complexes, with a delicious Christmas atmosphere, great places with various technologies to visit and shop in self-service totems and other items.

Traditional illuminations, lamps and lanterns from japan

Learn a little about the main actions of the time

Options abound when we talk about the Japanese Christmas, including, among the main tours for the date we have the following:

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

Events in Japan still have fireworks, special products like promotional backpacks, free sweets and a 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 beverages such as wines, hot chocolates to blank labels.

Sweets are a sure thing 

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, azuki beans and agar-agar, a type of gelatin made from seaweed. Originally they were served at banquets of the aristocracy and the Homeric court and served with tea (matcha).

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


Present at Christmas and on 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 truly luxury items. 

With the American occupation that forced the country to rebuild, sweets began to be seen as a hope for a better and more prosperous future. As the Christmas concept 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 it has become a symbol of resilience. Strawberries and whipped cream were chosen as they represent the colors of the Japanese flag.

- kurisumasu keki: discover traditional Japanese Christmas cakes

We can't forget about savory dishes

Furthermore, every Christmas, millions of Japanese families buy their “supper” at KFC. In fact, this is the greatest tradition of the Japanese Christmas spirit. The demand is so great that people start ordering the special Christmas menu 6 weeks early.

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

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

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

The Balde de Festa became a national phenomenon almost instantly, taking 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 culture totally different 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.