The Christmas Feeling Is Missing

It’s Christmas Eve. Christmas Day begins in less than two hours. But unlike my Christmases in Canada, the ones I’ve had in Japan just don’t feel like Christmas. Not in the same way.

Yes, I have family here. We have presents, though mainly for kids. We have a Christmas dinner. There are Christmas parties. There are Christmas decorations, and even some people cover their houses with lights. Christmas music is all over the place. There are some Christmas TV shows. What’s not the same? What’s not Christmas?

Well, in Japan, Christmas is all commercial. It’s not so much about family, it’s more for the children. It’s not a holiday, so people work. The big difference is that the build-up to Christmas just isn’t there. Well, there is a build-up, but in a totally different way. And the strange thing is that the day after Christmas, all decorations are gone. They’re replaced by New Year’s decorations. New Year’s Day is the biggest holiday in Japan, so that’s understandable. It overshadows Christmas in a big way.

There are many differences between a Canadian Christmas and a Japanese Christmas. And these are things I miss a lot.

  • Christmas dinner – Turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. In Japan, it’s Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Focus on family – In Japan, the focus is on kids.
  • The relaxing feeling – It’s not relaxing in Japan. It’s basically a day like any other day.
  • The Christmas spirit – People get into Christmas in Canada. Not so much in Japan. It’s not very important.
  • The TV shows – I miss the Garfield, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, and Frosty Christmas specials.
  • Sitting around the Christmas tree – Some people do this in Japan, but it isn’t a major thing.

I think the biggest difference is the anticipation. During December, everyone is anxiously waiting for their holiday to start and spend time with their family. This happens here in Japan, but for New Year’s Day. It’s just a different kind of celebration.

Ever spend Christmas in another country or culture?


22 thoughts on “The Christmas Feeling Is Missing”

  1. What gets me is that Christmas has been everywhere since early November, but on Christmas Eve and Day, nothing… I worked until 9.30pm, will work tomorrow, we may have a special dinner Saturday night, but my daughter got to open her presents this morning (she doesn’t know dates yet and as I didn’t work this morning)

    1. However, my worst Christmas(ses) were the few I spent in the US, alone, because my family was an ocean away, and all of my friends were with their family.
      However, one day (that unfortunately was my last Christmas in the country), I realized that a few other people I knew weren’t doing anything special, as they weren’t Christians (as it happens to still be quite a Christian holiday in the US), so we all got together and threw a “outcast” Christmas party, and it was awesome. I wish we had had the idea earlier (I met those people after my previous Christmas in the country though)

      1. That would’ve been pretty fun.

        My first Christmas in Japan, I didn’t go back to Canada. It was difficult. I spent a few hours at a manga cafe doing an online chat with my family in Canada. They had a webcam, I didn’t. I could see them, they couldn’t see me. But it was so hard to be halfway around the world and be alone for Christmas.

    2. My daughter seemed to think we could do another Christmas the day after Christmas. She wanted more presents. However, she seems to understand time now. She’s begun understanding what the clock actually does, and often asks if it’s time for bed.

      1. LOL. Yes, my daughter is starting to get the concept of time, but on a small scale, when it’s more than a day, it’s getting fuzzy; “tomorrow” is everything after today, and “yesterday” is everything before. And she really want her birthday to come soon (I guess because at youchien, they celebrate kids birthdays every month, and hers hasn’t come yet, unfortunately for her, it’ll be last, as she’s the youngest of the 1st years).

  2. Would the big differences lie in the fact that Christmas is largely a Christian holiday and there just isn’t much Christianity in Japan? Or is there more than I believe there is?

    1. Christmas is largely a Christian holiday in the US (and Canada?) Not everywhere. In Europe for example, everyone celebrates Christmas, it really is a secular holiday and has been for quite a while (and believe me the Christians are not happy about it). The thing with Christmas in Japan is that it is there, it is literally everywhere from November (decorations everywhere, Wham’s “Last Christmas” in every single store, and such), but on Christmas Day and Eve, nothing special, it lasts about the 15 minutes it takes for kids to open their one present and eat their slice of cake, and it’s over.

        1. I don’t know if it’s strictly commercial… sort of… I don’t know, if offering present to kids and making them happy a commercial thing?
          What I was saying is that Christmas can exist as a secular holiday too, you don’t have to be Christian to celebrate Christmas (to my knowledge, only in the US this seems to be a prerequisite), but that doesn’t necessarily make it a solely commercial thing either.

          But yeah, all the rebirth / new beginning dimension and undertone of traditional winter solstice holidays, regardless of what religion, is not included in the Japanese Christmas, it’s in the New Year’s celebrations instead – New year, being somewhat of a religious holiday in Japan.

          1. Ahhh. I see your point now. It’s more of a celebration for the kids. For the parents in the sense of seeing the excitement of their children. I knew it wasn’t a strictly christian holiday as I have a few non-christian friends who still celebrate Christmas. So, like most holidays celebrated in many countries, it’s celebrates slightly differently.

        1. I’ve been wondering about that. Before going to the US, I always assumed that Christmas had become secular all over the world, and it kinda shocked me that it wasn’t.
          And I never know with Canada, always so similar but so different from the US. 😉

          1. Here in Canada, from what I’ve seen in the 6 years I’ve lived here is that Christmas is a lot like the states. It’s still about celebrating the birth of Christ. Christmas Eve mass is usually packed – standing room only. So, in that regard, it’s like the US 🙂

            1. Except that Canada has a much higher proportion of non-religious people than the US, and they often still celebrate Christmas. My family is not religious at all, and to us, Christmas is about family. Nothing about anyone’s birth 🙂

  3. Have to agree that the Xmas build up and the overall feeling that is Christmas and that everyone will be nice and cheerful to each other is nonexistent.

    I will do all the traditional things; make dinner (Turkey Roast Dinner with Roast Potatoes and Gravy; all imported) but as it’s a normal day like any other my oldest is at school and rest of the family are at work, so our celebrations will be done tonight when everyone gets in.

    1. That must be odd. A hot Christmas. Here in Japan, it’s in the low to mid teens. Nothing like in Canada, where it’s below freezing and snowy. I haven’t seen significant snow in a couple years, and that was wet stuff that melted soon.

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