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How do Japanese celebrate Christmas?

Christmas in Japan?

Christmas is coming nearby, how would you like to celebrate it while you are in Japan? Most of countries celebrate Christmas as it’s a christian holiday, this is not the exact reason why Japanese celebrate it. Rather than being religious, Japanese celebrate it as a holiday without specific meaning. Christmas is more like a time to enjoy and an escape from busy day time. During this time, many of them may prefer to choose to stay with their partners, which is a bit different from other countries. What do they actually do during Christmas and why do they do those things? In this article, we are going to talk about it and hope you can have a clearer image of Japanese Christmas.

➀Iluminations can be seen everywhere during this period.

When you walk on streets during this period, you can definitely feel be surrounded by romantic illuminations. Illuminations in winter are actually not because of Christmas but now they are connected closely to each other. So why are illuminations always in winter?
The first reason is that the sunset is earlier this time, therefore we can have a longer time to enjoy illuminations. The second reason is that illuminations are more beautiful in winter, which is the same reason with that stars can be seen more clearly in winter. Below are the explanations.

・Since the air current is stable, impurities such as dust from the ground do not mix into the air
・Because the air is dry, there are few particles of water vapor in the air
・Because there is little temperature difference between day and night, the fluctuation of the atmosphere is small

On the other hand, what about the origin of illumination? It can be traced back to 16c, when a German named Martin Luther, the center of Religious Revolution, walking in the forest and got startled with stars in sky. He came up with the idea of decorating candles on branches of trees to reproduce the scene. However, nowadays we use electronics to produce illumination and this idea is actually originated from Thomas Edison. To advertise his invention of light bulbs, he decorated his laboratory surroundings with them. This is considered to be the origin of modern illumination nowadays. Although the idea first came from a business thought, it’s now a more romantic appliance right now.
If you want to see the best illumination in Japan, you can visit Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi, it is selected as “10 destinations in the world's dream destinations” by CNN in 2014, which is the only place selected from Japan. The philosophy of this park said py the director was that “The main character of illuminations should always be flowers”, “To make it more real”, “Making illumination is like raising plants. You look at them from 360 degrees, it should always be close to realism that they can be evolved in the world without discomfort”. It’s touching hearing their efforts of adding life into illuminations and no wonder why Japanese illuminations can be so impressive.

②Japanese eat KFC during Christmas?

The next interesting celebration way for Japanese christmas is that many families buy KFC to celebrate Christmas. The needs for fried chicken in Christmas is really a lot, it is said that many American fast food restaurants start to receive orders since November. So, why do Japanese eat fried chicken during this period, it actually can be traced back to 40 years ago when a foreigner visited KFC and said something about Christmas. It was a story happened in one KFC in aoyama, when a foreign customer visited the store and said that as there’s no turkey in Japan, he would prefer to celebrate Christmas with KFC. This made a salesman in KFC thought and came up with a idea that “クリスマスにはケンタッキー(Christmas is KFC)”. Since then, KFC started Christmas campaign about it and it has already lasted for 40 years. Therefore, no wonder why the image of eating KFC is so strong in Japan. The first Christmas campaign was on 1st, December, 1974 and the idea was thought out by Takeshi Okawara, who was the manager of one of KFC restaurants and then the CEO of KFC. How can this campaign become so successful? Actually at that time, people still had a strong longing for overseas, Overseas food was considered to be cool and fancy at that time. As the CM of KFC displayed at that time, the image of foreigners eating chicken is strong remained in Japanese minds. That can be one of the reasons why KFC made a hit then. However, although it is thought that foreigners eat turkeys during Christmas, it was actually not a tradition for normal Christmas. For normal Christmas, fried ham and roast beef are mostly eaten. Rather than eating turkey on Christmas in December, people eat it more in November on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrated in America and Canada which is on the fourth Thursday of November in America and second Monday of October in Canada. This is celebrated when British moved to America and they wanted to give thanks to their first harvests and Indians who give them knowledge. Thanksgiving Day is also called Turkey Day as well. So why do people start to eat turkey on Christmas as well? It is said that there are mainly 3 reasons for this phenomenon. First is the influence of novel called “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, which was a big hit then and is still beloved by American right now. There is a important scene when a boy eating turkey during Christmas, it is said that this is a big influence for eating turkey in Christmas. The other reason is that after Thanksgiving Day, lots of turkeys are still remained, so shops started to make discount on turkeys, which ends up in families eating turkeys on Christmas. The last reason is the strategy of KFC, when they made a CM saying that “Eat Chicken in Christmas.” in 1980s.

③Christmas cake in Japan.

It’s normal to eat Christmas cake during Christmas. However, the type of Christmas cake is a bit different in different places. In Europe or America, during Christmas people mostly eat fruit assorted cake. While in Japan, people eat sponge-based strawberry cakes. This can be traced back to Fujiya in 1922 when they started a catch copy with “クリスマスにケーキを食べよう!(Eat cake in Christmas)” and started to sell cream decorated cake at the same time. Unlike the traditional fruit cake eaten in other countries, the cake sold by Fujiya was decorated with Christmas motifs including sugar candy Santa with strawberries. It was a luxury at that time so many normal people couldn’t afford it. However, until 1970s, every family in Japan has become already used to the custom of eating Christmas cake. Nowadays, people are not only limited to strawberry cake, chocolate cakes, fruit cakes or ice cream cakes can also be seen on Japanese tables during this period. However, the flavor of strawberry cake of Fujiya must be the most unforgettable taste in every Japanese family.


Nowadays, Christmas in Japan is not just a holiday from overseas, it’s already a holiday with Japanese culture inside. Except for things above, you can also see Japanese own Christmas culture like Japanese Christmas pop songs or Japanese animation episodes with the theme of Christmas. If you are like me who is in Japan during Christmas, let’s try celebrate it with a Japanese style!


2018, 12, 20