Does Japan celebrate Christmas?
Sure you will see Christmas trees in the shopping malls and illuminations throughout the winter, but those have little to do with the actual holiday. There are holiday sales galore, because who doesn’t love a good sale? But that warm, hearthy, childlike anticipation that reaches crescendo in the early hours of December 25th (amongst children and adults alike) just doesn’t exist.
That isn’t to say that families are completely oblivious to the holiday. But most children receive just one gift on Christmas day. And those that have a tree (always artificial), have one that rivals the one from Charlie Brown Christmas. So it’s difficult to describe to my Japanese extended family the sheer gluttony of the American upper-middle class Christmas as I experienced it.
I think my Japanese wife gets it. She’s seen it in person. She seems to be into it. So when Christmas rolls around we really go full-on creating a holiday ambiance in our rabbit hutch of an apartment. Our artificial tree is larger than most, the lights twinkling each and every evening, and is overflowing with ornaments. We have stockings hanging in the doorway, even one for the dog. Christmas music from Accuradio is basically the background music for from December 1st (even earlier sometimes).
And here’s the real kicker. It never really has to end! Back in ‘Merica there comes a point after the new year where keeping your tree up (even artificial ones) is guaranteed to get some eyerolls. It’s gotta be down by February at least. And get those Christmas lights off the hedges or else you might as well declare yourself mentally unstable.
But here in Japan, because you don’t necessarily receive a lot of house guests and because few have any real understanding of Christmas etiquette, you can take certain liberties. It’s February 7th as I write this, and our apartment remains fully in the Christmas spirit. The tree won’t come down until at least after Valentine’s Day and “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” is on permanent repeat. Whatever keeps the hygge rolling is fair game as far as I am concerned. The only reason to pack all those decorations up is the joy I get setting it all up again. Too much of a good thing might diminish the holiday experience, so a Christmas intermission is probably necessary.
Maybe when the ice thaws we’ ll get around to sweeping up the tinsel, but I ain’t in any rush. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!