Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas

As our first Christmas in Japan we wanted to experience all the culture had to offer. Unfortunately I got very sick. So our plans fell through and I spent the long weekend sleeping or in a semi-sleeping state. I guess my super immune system wasn't so super with these new Japanese germs.

But the Japanese celebrate Christmas a little differently. Most people are of the Shinto or Buddhist faith so celebrating Christmas has no religious significance here. Instead they celebrate with cake and fried chicken.

Yep, fried chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken to be more specific. When I asked about where the KFC and Christmas cake tradition started no one had an answer. "It's just what we've always done."

Encouraged by commerce, the secular celebration of Christmas is popular in Japan, though Christmas is not a national holiday. Gifts are sometimes exchanged. Christmas parties are held around Christmas Day; Japanese Christmas cake is often a white sponge cake covered with cream and decorated with strawberries. Christmas lights decorate cities, and Christmas trees adorn living areas and malls. Christmas Eve has become a holiday for couples to spend time together and exchange gifts.
The first recorded Christmas in Japan was a Mass held by Jesuit missionaries in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1552. Some believe that unrecorded celebrations were held before this date, starting in 1549 when Saint Francis Xavier arrived in Japan. Christianity was banned throughout Japan in 1612. However, a small enclave of Kakure Kirishitan ("hidden Christians") continued to practice underground over the next 250 years.
Christianity in Japan along with Christmas reemerged in the Meiji period. Influenced by America, Christmas parties were held and presents were exchanged. The practice slowly spread, but its proximity to the New Year's celebrations makes it a smaller focus of attention. During World War II, all celebrations, especially American, were suppressed. From the 1960s, with an expanding economy, and influenced by American TV, Christmas became popular. (Source).
Our prefecture (state) was the first to celebrate Christmas!

Another interesting note:

In the past, single women over the age of 25 were sometimes referred to in Japan as a "Christmas cake" based on the belief that, like a Christmas cake, they become nearly worthless after December 25.
Yikes! Good thing I found a husband before 25!
Merry Christmas!

3 comments:

  1. And a happy new year!

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  2. I hope you both have a very Happy New Year and also hope you're feeling much better.

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  3. Thank you, Aunt Joan. I am feeling much better, but now poor Dustin caught it. He turns into the world's biggest baby when he's sick!

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