Christmas in Japan is very different from the Christmas that is celebrated in countries in which the population has a large percentage of Christians. The Japanese people naturally have a weak understanding of the Christian religion and holidays, with only about 1% of the Japanese population being Christian, however both the holiday and religion are deeply respected by the Japanese. Due to the lack of Christian people in Japan, December 25th is not a national holiday, although the Japanese do celebrate Christmas in a very commercial way.
Christmas in Japan tends to be an extremely romantic holiday, much like St. Valentines Day is in the western world. It is seen as a time to be spent with one’s significant other in a romantic setting. Therefore, fancy restaurants and hotels are often booked solid during this time. It is also a time when girls get to reveal their affections to boys and vice versa, therefore extending an invitation to be together on Christmas Eve has very profound, romantic implications.
Christmas presents are exchanged between people with romantic commitments as well as between family and close friends. However, in comparison to the western world, presents tend to be ‘cute’ presents and often include teddy bears, flowers, scarves, and jewelry. Christmas cards are also given out, but not in mass mailings as it is done in the United States. Obligatory end of the year presents are not given out during Christmas as they are in the United States and other countries, but instead these kind of things are done during New Years celebrations, which is Japan’s main holiday during this season. New Years celebrations in Japan come a lot closer to the American-European idea of assembling family and friends and Christmas celebrations.
The ‘Christmas Cake’ is by far, Japan’s most popular Christmas tradition. On Christmas Eve, the father of the family purchases a ‘Christmas Cake’ on his way home from work. This cake is to be bought in all instances and not made and can be found in stores all over the country.
Although Christmas is not the big holiday it is in other countries and has virtually no religious implications, people in Japan still enjoy celebrating it. Decorations can be found in almost all retail businesses as early as the end of October. These decorations include Christmas lighting, displays and most recently lots and lots of teddy bears.