Christmas in Japan
Christmas came upon pretty unexpected and quick. With all the schoolwork and day to day business, December seemed as a normal month, just a bit colder. Usually, with finals creeping up and signaling the start of the winter break, one would be anxious by the time December comes, back in the United States and Puerto Rico. Nonetheless, due to the fact that finals in Japan are actually after our small winter break, there didn’t seem to be this yearning as back home.
Furthermore, there are other key differences for these type of holidays. For example, Christmas is not that of an important holiday in Japan in the sense of its religious connotation. Usually we envision Christmas as the typical stay-in family event with things such as presents. However, you’re not going to see such typical image of Christmas, with the iconic image of Santa Claus, families putting Christmas trees, stockings, snow, and cookies.
Christmas in Japan mainly involves couples and is a more romantic holiday where lovers are seen together enjoying the time. In addition, another peculiar detail to know is that Japanese emphasize Christmas Eve instead of Christmas. One could speculate that the fact Japan isn’t a predominant Christian nation could be a possible reason for this.
KFC and Cake Tradition
However, aside from the couple oriented tradition, what seemed most surprising to me was the fact that the fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken was a must on Christmas eve. It is a custom in Japan to enjoy some chicken from KFC with family and friends. You could see the KFC stores full of people and families ordering and eating here. Even in the streets, you could even see Japanese bringing bags of KFC to their homes. A particular anecdote was that of a Japanese family in the train, where a little Japanese girl was asking her dad if she could eat as they had just bought from KFC. However, the father just replied that she had to wait until they arrived home. Such anecdote made me realize just how embedded such custom is in Japanese life.
As I had a partner during that time, I went to Kobe with her and stayed shopping throughout the city market and mall. Although it seemed like a regular day, with people going up and about, the presence of couples was definitely seen, some holding hands and being affectionate. Such occurrence was notable as Japanese tend to be more conservative and public display of affection is not usual in Japan.
Lastly, another custom for Christmas in Japan is Christmas cake. Japanese tend to buy a cake and share it with either their loved one or family and friends. As I was with my partner, we bought and shared a small cake. All in all, Japanese Christmas was definitely unique and special, but it made me miss things such as Christmas lights and the overall joy of the holiday.
Another anecdote that deems to be unforgettable was that of snow and how we made a snowman. Since we don’t get anything close to snow in Puerto Rico and Miami, the cold season was rather rough for me in comparison with other international students. Nonetheless, seeing snow and playing with it was one of the things I enjoyed most. Although it doesn’t snow as much in Kyoto, this year a harsher winter was expected. It was then that when the snow peak was reached, a lot of the international students went outside as it was snowing a lot. We all got together and made a snowman called Taishi. Of everyone there, other international students would comment on how my Singaporean friend, Ismail, and I reacted to snow as we didn’t have it in our respective countries.