Friday, December 7, 2012

Today I learned Japanese Christmastime!

Posted by Daniexmachina

In honor of the Christmas season, I continue to learn about other cultures and the way they celebrate. I said yesterday that I planned to write about Germany, but they have so much going and I got a late start writing, so I decided on something that wouldn't be as long. So today is a day for sushi and Buddhist monks! We learn about Christmas in Japan! Those that read my blog about Korea know that Korea is the only Eastern nation that has Christmas as a public holiday. In Japan, Christmas is not a public holiday, but the 23rd is the birthday of the present emperor, so that is. 

Because less than 1% of Japanese are Christian (though the rest are tolerant of all faiths), Christmas is rather different from what we are used to. With no religious connotation for most of the population, Christmas is all commercial and is also not the family affair that we have. Interestingly enough, Christmas there is much like our Valentine's Day. It's a very romantic holiday to be spent with one's significant other. They get each other cute gifts like teddy bears, flowers and jewelry. 

One thing they do as a family is have a Christmas Cake. The father of the family buys one and brings it home with him for the family to have together. Stores all have different versions of the cake and on the December 25th the prices drop drastically in order to sell everything out by the next day. This has resulted in an expression I found hilarious. Young girls are referred to as Christmas Cakes because at 25 they are marriageable  but by 26 they require heavy discounts to find marriage. (I'm 25, So I'm a Christmas Cake). 

Aside from the cute presents Japanese get each other, there were also obligatory year-end gifts for bosses, teachers, people who were kind to you during the year. These are called Oseibo and are usually foods or soap for the house. These days most Japanese under 50 have never given or received an Oseibo. They see this as something that their parents did, but they do not want to do. They prefer the personal expression of gift-giving that Christmas brings rather than social obligation. 

The Japanese also have a practice of year-end parties called bonenkai, which is a party for forgetting the old year. These are parties for drinking and because there are many at this time of the year, it leads to many people on the sidewalks, subways and trains in various states of intoxication. 

Another really interesting thing is because of the clever marketing of KFC, most Japanese have fried chicken for Christmas and see it as traditional! Back in the 70s a KFC customer in Japan noted that with a land bereft of a traditional turkey dinner, chicken would be the next best thing. This eventually made up to the bigwigs and they came up with the slogan: “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas) in 1972.

I learned a lot of interesting things about the Japanese and what they do at Christmas time. I hope you all had fun learning too! Now we know to go get KFC for Christmas. メリークリスマス!


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