Depending on what country you are from, what is served on the Christmas dinner table may vary quite significantly. You may or may not exchange gifts and you might not decorate a Christmas tree. Yes, it is quite possible to have a Christmas without ugly sweaters or eggnog. What is that anyway? Each of these traditions is special regardless, because it is what we remember when we grow. Having lived in several countries, I always found the traditions to be the interesting part of the experience. So in the spirit of the season, I thought it would be a fun idea to share just how Christmas in Japan was!
Christmas in Japan isn’t about Jesus
Since my family is Christian, I was taught from a young age that Christmas was Jesus Christs’ birthday. ‘Christ’-mas. You knew that right? Well, shock and horror, in this non-Christian country that is big on holiday celebrations, Christmas is actually one of the most celebrated seasons! During my first few years living in Japan, I would always get confused when my friends would talk about Christmas. Specifically because they did not share the same faith as me. It was only when I started asking questions that I realised that December was big for couples, not singles or established families. Think of valentines day in the English speaking countries – if you haven’t lived there, just watch a soppy romance movie. Now multiply that by ten and you have Christmas in Japan!
Christmas in Japan isn’t about family
At some point during my university life, I thought I would give the ‘work’ thing a try. Everyone in school had a ‘bait’ (part-time job) so it was only logical that I wanted one too. It was a terrible decision, but one I don’t regret as I get to share my experience with you today. I chose to work part-time as a waitress, and was quickly offered a role in a Mexican restaurant.
One thing I found quite intriguing was just how full restaurants got on Christmas Eve. You would think that it was families coming through because they just didn’t feel like cooking. Surprisingly, the guests were mainly couples that were either going to get engaged, were engaged or recently married. And these restaurants would get really full unlike most nights, so bookings were made up to a month in advance. Which leads me to my next point…
Dinners are for the deep pockets
Restaurants make more money in three days than they do in the year. Yes, you read that right. In the two Mexican restaurants I worked at, Christmas Eve, the day before and the day after were the most profitable evenings they had all year. You know what’s interesting? We actually able to reduce costs per meal during that time! I’ll tell you how. Most restaurants would establish a Christmas menu that consisted of about three to five courses on average. What they then did was charge about five times the usual price per dish, while reducing the serving size significantly.
If you were to deconstruct the meals, you’d see that the amount of food served was actually much less than if you were to eat the same meals separately on a non Christmas day. For the not-so-deep pockets, KFC is the thing to eat and people also tended to pre-order their meals. Yes, preorder KFC because the ‘joints’ would run out of chicken!
Disneyland gets really packed
Another common Christmas ritual is to go and watch the parades in Disneyland. I’ve found this to be more common among the younger dating generation, although you do find lots of families there too. Anyone who has been to Japan would know that Disney is a part of the culture and even grown women like cute knick knacks attached to their purses or cellphone covers. Pair that with a country that takes pride in its beauty and you have the gorgeously lit Disneyland Christmas Special. I’ve only been to one of them, but it was a truly magical experience. Crowded too!
The streets are gorgeous!
Of course, Japan in itself is one of the pretties places to visit, but everything becomes even more beautiful during Christmas. I hadn’t understood why everything looked so magical during the winter season, but now that I’ve lived in different countries, I miss the illuminations that were a staple in Japan. In Tokyo, it was a thing to ‘go and see the illuminations‘ then call it a night. Yes, literally just go and see the lights! I dare you to click on the link and see just how gorgeous they are! My friends and I particularly liked visiting Ginza and Roppongi as they tended to have the best illuminations, plus, the Tokyo Tower was also close by!
And there you have it. A beautiful, magical trip to spend Christmas in Japan!
Did you find any of these facts interesting? Let me know in the comment section below.