Karimasu, the Japanese Christmas season, starts as early as mid-November. The Japanese regard Christmas as entertainment and a commercial rather than religious event (only 0.7% of the Japanese population is Christian). The Japanese have adapted Christmas to their own cultural context, with Christmas trees and Santa Clauses accompanied by pandas and other symbols that have nothing to do with Christmas as we know it. According to Shinto and Buddhism, which are practised by the majority of Japanese people, there is no reason against celebrating Christmas. It is popular to send Christmas cards depicting Santa Claus and angels.

Festival of love

Kurisumasu does not only involve spending time with the family, atmosphere of joy and shopping. It is also an occasion to celebrate love, and the most important holiday for lovers after Valentine’s Day. Christmas Eve is a perfect opportunity to propose, have a date or spend a romantic evening with the beloved one.

Japanese Christmas Eve

In Japan, Christmas Eve dinner is an occasion for families to spend time together while enjoying the Christmas atmosphere. Yet the Japanese version of Christmas is different from our tradition in this respect as well. Japanese Christmas Eve dinner does not include the twelve dishes, cabbage and mushrooms or wafers. Instead, it includes kurisumasu keeki, an extremely sweet “Christmas cake” served as a colourful dessert decorated with characters made from sugar (the more spectacular they are, the better) and roast chicken. The latter custom probably came from the US around the 1980s, when first KFC restaurants were opened in Asia. Americans managed to convince the Japanese that roast chicken was an essential dish served on Christmas Eve dinner in the West. Today having the Christmas dinner at a KFC is nothing uncommon in Japan. This custom has become so popular that KFC makes 20% of its annual revenue overnight.

Japanese carols

The Japanese love to be inspired by Western culture and art, including music. This is particularly apparent during the Christmas season. Japanese Christmas traditions involve singing carols together. The classic Christmas songs, such as “Silent night” or “Jingle bells”, have their Eastern counterparts in Japan.

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