Unique Japanese Christmas Traditions

Who doesn’t love Christmas?! Each country has their own unique way of celebrating the holiday season, but It’s always the perfect time to spread joy and cheer.

Christmas illuminations in Japan. | tedd okano

Spending Christmas in Japan can be a wonderful experience as you get to know the different Christmas traditions many Japanese observe during the holidays.

In Japan, where Buddhism and Shinto religious beliefs are predominantly practiced, Christmas is still a much anticipated holiday. Several Western customs have also caught on such as giving out presents and sending and receiving Christmas cards. Celebrating the season in Japan though is more of a time to spread the joy of the season rather than a religious celebration. Christmas in Japan is considered a romantic occasion, much like Valentine’s Day, where couples spend the evenings together strolling along streets lit with beautiful Christmas lights.

Here are other Christmas traditions, only in Japan:

Seasonal Illuminations

Seasonal illuminations are a glorious sight in the larger cities all across Japan. The dazzling light displays begin sometime in November and run until New Year or even until Valentine’s Day in February. The sparkle and shine of hundreds to thousands of LED lights are a fantastic way to experience the holiday spirit.

KFC Christmas in Japan. | sixmats

Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas Dinner!

Whoever thought KFC would ever be a traditional Christmas dish? KFC in Japan is the epitome of a Christmas meal. When a group of foreigners could not find turkey in Japan, they opted to have fried chicken instead. KFC saw this as a great marketing opportunity and launched their first Christmas meal in 1974. The fast food chain now gets Christmas orders months in advance. It sure is  “finger lickin good” whatever time of the year!

Delicious Christmas cake

Christmas cake is a must-have during the holidays. It was popularized in the 1970s and traditionally served on Christmas Eve.

Japanese Christmas cake. | Bert Kimura

The cake is frosted with butter cream or whipped cream, decorated with strawberries, and often topped with chocolates and other fruits. Christmas wouldn’t be complete without this creamy delight to grace your dinner table.

Don’t rip the wrapper of your Christmas presents

Part of the fun of unwrapping Christmas presents is just going all out wacko and ripping the shiny paper to shreds!  In however, you must take a deep breath, count to 10, and compose yourself before you begin to gingerly unwrap your gifts. Make sure to keep the wrapper intact. This shows respect to the giver and the gift. It helps to know though that the gifts are often so intricately wrapped, it would be a shame to tear the paper.