In Japan, Buddhism and Shintoism are common religions, but it is not the reason they don’t celebrate Christmas. In fact, most Japanese people are not strict religious people included me so the people in Japan enjoy Christmas as an annual event to have fun more than religious meaning.
Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.wikipedia
I am going to tell you what generally the Japanese do in the Christmas season.
Eat Christmas cake
It is extremely busy for patisseries, the department stores during the Christmas season because eating a “Christmas cake” is traditional in Japan.
Patisseries, department stores, and convenience stores compete for sales of Christmas cake, you can see advertisements, posters, and flyers everywhere.
They make new decoration cakes every Christmas season, people need to order reservation to buy one in advance.
You can see people who try to sell a pile of Christmas cake on the street.
It is said “Fujiya”, sweets and restaurant chain store in Japan, started selling decoration cake for Christmas in 1910, then eating Christmas cake got common throughout Japan.
It is not like that you imagine right now, Japanese Christmas decorations and a tree is very simple.
Again, Christmas is one of the annual fun events for Japanese people so that they don’t follow traditional Christmas decorations.
Japanese decorations are “cute” in one word.
There is no religious meaning for Japanese people except for people who celebrate Christmas as their religions.
They put (fake and small) Christmas trees, and just enjoy the atmosphere.
Besides, new year’s day is more important for Japanese people so they don’t decorate Christmas much, mostly the only families who have kids do so.
Spend romantic time with a partner
In Japan, Christmas eve and the day are for couples.
Generally speaking, young couples plan to do something romantic for the special 2 days.
Going the trip together, having the special Christmas dinner at the romantic restaurant or staying home with only 2 of them and eat the Christmas cake, and exchange pricy gifts with each other.
Therefore, young people who don’t have a partner try or hope to find one by Christmas day.
Some people even keep secret if they can’t find one and have to spend the day alone.
In Japanese word, the situation that being alone on Christmas is “Kuribocchi” (クリぼっち), which comes from “Christmas” + “Hitori bocchi” (meaning alone).
Enjoy winter illuminations
Winter illuminations are popular seasonal events throughout Japan.
Spectacular light shows are held in most popular places, visiting to see light shows are one of the attractions during the winter season.
Around Christmas time, there are many couples to see the illumination to spend romantic time in only their world.
Popular spots in Japan
- SHIBUYA PARK
- Tokyo Midtown
- Osaka castle park (OSAKA)
- Kobe Luminarie(KOBE)
- Nabana no Sato(MIE)
- Nijo-Castle (KYOTO)
Christmas is not family gathering day in Japan, so how do families spend Christmas day?
Most of the family eats a chicken and Christmas cake at home.
By the way, Christmas is not a holiday in Japan.
The Japanese family doesn’t have an event to exchange and open Christmas gifts together like other cultures do, except for kid’s party.
Generally, parents buy gifts for kids secretly and place gifts by them while sleeping.
Kids believe Santa Claus exists, so they are so excited to go to bed on Christmas eve.
Japanese kids don’t put cookies and milk for Santa Claus. (I believe not many people don’t know it.)
The chicken dish is the staple food for Japanese Christmas.
Chicken is much common than turkey, so it is easy to get chicken and also turkey is too big to cook in a Japanese kitchen.
I believe not so many Japanese people have turkey in their lives.
Usually, people buy roasted chicken legs from the deli section at grocery stores.
The roasted whole chicken has not so common until COSTCO came to Japan and not so many people cook a whole chicken at home.
Surprise you, Kentucky Fried Chicken is a very popular Christmas dinner menu in Japan.
It is said that a foreign customer came to buy fried chicken as a Christmas dinner because he couldn’t find turkey in Japan in the 1970’s. The manager got an idea from this story to promote fried chicken as Christmas dinner.
Around the Christmas season, you can see KFC TV commercials a lot of “Christmas barrel”, which has several dishes and trinkets in one barrel.
Mariah Carey’s song, “All I want for Christmas is you” is a staple Christmas song in Japan since it was the theme tune of a Japanese TV drama in 1994.
You can hear there three songs, “All I want for Christmas is you”, “Last Christmas”, and “Christmas eve” (Japanese singer-songwriter, Tatsuro Yamashita) A LOT around Christmas season.
Christmas party with friends
Gather and drink with just friends at Christmas time if they don’t have partners to spend Christmas day.
Many Izakayas and restaurants have special menus for Christmas parties.