Christmas to me is always a special time of year. During the cold days of winter, the holiday spirit allows us to forget the dreary and cold weather.

As a westerner in Japan, I have how an image imbedded in my brain on how Christmas should be celebrated. Granted each household celebrates Christmas in their own unique way, but the concept or culture is the same, where each family might have different traditions. (Disclaimer, I will not be speaking upon Hanukkah or Kwanzaa since our family celebrates Christmas).

The concept or idea of Christmas in Japan is quite different. In this post I will touch on why, and also some of the interesting differences I have observed comparing from “my Christmas” and a “Japanese Christmas.”

Christmas and Religion

To keep this section short and sweet, Japanese people are not particularly religious, they are rather spiritual by nature. When speaking upon religion, Japanese people’s idea of being “religious” requires he or she to be a part of an organization or sect. Therefore most don’t identify themselves as being religious. Although the practices taught in Shintoism and Buddhism is practiced by a majority of Japanese people.

Christmas is known as a religious Christian Holiday, where approximately only 3% of the Japanese population practices Christianity.

Christmas is not an Observed National Holiday.
Christmas is a regular work day for most, and depending on the school calendar, children might attend school on Christmas as well.

Christmas Eve

When I think of Christmas Eve, I imagine spending time with my family watching Elf and opening one present. As long as I can remember, this has been a tradition in my family. In Japan, Christmas Eve is more reserved for couples to go on dates. Personally I think it is a great custom since every major city has at least one location designated for Christmas Lights (illuminations).

The Colonel

The food of choice for Christmas is Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Japan being home to a ton of delicious food and home to a plethora of seasonal foods, decided to say pick the Colonel’s fried chicken as food of choice. I couldn’t really get on board with this tradition since I am all about Christmas Ham, but to each it’s own.
For dessert, the dessert of choice is “Christmas Cake” which is just a fancy strawberry shortcake.

Christmas and New Years

In contrast New Years is an extremely important holiday for the Japanese. I always compare the Western Christmas to Japanese News Years, and
Western New Years to Japanese Christmas to be similar in a way.
The Christmas celebrated in the west is spent with family and loved ones. New Years in Japan is celebrated with family and loved ones.

Having a multi-cultural family of my own, the holiday season is always my favorite. Celebrating a Western style Christmas with my family, and celebrating Japanese New Year with my family.

We hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday. If you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas to your family from mine, and a Happy New Year to all.