Christmas in Japan can be both exhilarating and a minor bummer for those more accustomed to the gluttony of American-Style celebration. The exhilaration, as for myself, comes from the knowledge that come Christmas morning I will be doing something unique in the particular neighborhood I live in – opening oodles of presents, listening to Christmas music, and taking a nap in a sea of wrapping paper. Christmas celebration might very well occur elsewhere in Japan, but the scope in which it is played out in our 6 tatami-mat living room really is limited to my home and others in the expat community. It is a custom that I am wholly unwilling to part with.
When I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, there was a certain collective awareness from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day that similar experiences were being had all over kid-dom. Early Christmas Day you could most certainly sense the tension of children awaiting whatever signal it was that gave them permission to leave their rooms and venture into that Holy of Holies – the room of the Christmas tree and its cacophony of clashing gift-bowed deliverances from both Santa and parents. As the morning progressed you could hear a pin drop through the streets until around 10 AM or so, until a clean basketball or a stiff new baseball mit had to, without regard to the wintry weather, be tried out for the first time. It was always like that and I hope it is still like that now.
It is that collective feeling of anticipation-come-joy that is certainly missing here in Tokyo. But all the same, the exclusiveness of my celebration of Christmas is also something I enjoy. Whether that make me greedy, or elitist… well – sorry!