Santa Claus, reindeer, fir trees, illuminations…Christmas is coming! You may wonder what gifts you are going to give to your family. For your sister’s baby, you may give an Elmo with Pizza toy; for your brother you may give a Nintendo DS if you have a big enough budget; and for your mother, you may buy a cake plate set because they were at a great price in an after Thanksgiving sale. On the Christmas holiday, most American people have a wonderful dinner, exchange gifts, and stay together with their family.
Unlike American people, Christmas in Japan is not family oriented. Most young Japanese people do not celebrate Christmas with their families when they go to high school. Children in elementary and junior high schools are, of course, looking for Santa Claus. Their biggest concern is how Santa Claus will get inside their Japanese style homes. Because most Japanese people live in apartments, they do not have chimneys.
So their parents make the excuse that “I gave a house key to Santa Claus,” “I will open the windows when I go to bed,” or “Santa Claus does not need the chimney because he is magical.” Before Christmas, the parents need to answer all kinds of questions about Santa Claus such as “Yes, Sweetie, Santa Claus parks his reindeers on the street or the rooftop. He is not going to get a parking ticket. I told you that he does not need the chimney on the rooftop!”
Most Japanese children know that Santa Claus is from the Western culture, so some children believe that he comes at dawn after that he delivers all of the presents in Western countries. However, it does not make sense because of the time zone; Santa Claus should travel to England and the rest of Europe, the Middle East, Russia, China, Japan, the Pacific Ocean countries, and then America. If Santa Claus does not mind different religions but works for children’s happiness, there are more than 2 billion children in the world, so Santa Claus makes more than 822.6 visits per second in 31 hours.
Some Japanese college students and office workers celebrate Christmas with their boyfriends and girlfriends. The boyfriends make reservations at restaurants on the top floor of skyscrapers or restaurants in a trendy spot. It is beautiful to have dinner looking down at the night view in the cities, but the average cost of the restaurant is about $300 for a couple. The couple may exchange their gifts at the restaurant. Even though they are not going to marry, some boyfriends give rings to their girlfriends. The girlfriends may give a scarf, perfume, or wish tickets, which are more reasonable than the rings. Japanese men need a large budget for Christmas. While they are dating around Christmas, they may not think anything about their families.
However, New Year’s is the most important holiday in Japan. Most people celebrate the holidays with their families having a nice dinner and wonderful gifts. Japanese New Year’s dishes have different meaning and some dishes are unique in each city. It is similar to the symbols of Thanksgiving such as turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc which have different meanings from the pioneer and colonial periods. For example, people from different cities have local styles of Ozouni, which is rice cake in a soup. Tokyo’s Ozouni is based on soy-sauce; however, some people use miso in Nagoya; in addition, some cities by the ocean use seafood for the base. Therefore, each Ozouni has different colors of soup.
With those different styles of celebrations, people celebrate the holiday season with family and someone special. No matter where people come from, they exchange gifts and people love spending time with their family. They will smile at each other and have the happiest moments in a warm, cozy house. In closing, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!