We asked our students at EC Oxford English Language School to write about Christmas in their countries. Michiyo tells us about Christmas in Japan:
Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan. We must go to school or work but choose 24th or 25th to celebrate it. Both of them are considered to be a night when couples spend time together (like Valentine’s Day in Western countries) Of course children who are under 12 years spend it with their family, but most teenagers or adults spend the time with their girlfriend or boyfriend. So if you don’t have a lover, you feel stressed. How about dinner? Turkeys are not widely available in Japan and even if they are, ovens used in Japan are not large. So we eat chicken as a Christmas dinner. In late November, KFC starts taking orders for the Christmas Chicken Box. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, KFCs all over Japan are so so crowded with customers picking it up. And we eat a Christmas cake as well which is a very simple sponge cake with strawberries and whipped cream with Santa ornament. We also decorate Christmas tree but there is no custom to put presents under the tree. There is no rule where we put it. And children can get just one present from their parents. As parents need to know what their children want, showing a toy advertisement, they ask what they asked to Santa. When children get up in the 25th morning, they’ll find it near their bedsides.
*Japanese New Year*
Soon after Christmas, Japanese people start preparing for New Year’s events. As westerners send Christmas cards, we also send each other New Year’s cards called “nengajyo”. In the New Year’s Eve dinner, we eat soba noodles called “toshikoshi soba” (it means year crossing) to wish for a long life. New Year’s Day is the most important day of a year for Japanese people. The time period of January is called “oshougatsu” especially from 1st of January to 7th. In Japan, 1st of January is a national holiday, so many companies and shops are closed for the first three days of the New Year. Oshougatsu is an event for the family, like Christmas in the UK. Nomally, we family members and relatives come together and celebrate it eating Japanese traditional dishes called “osechi” in our house. Each dish that makes it up has a special meaning such as health, long life, fertility, and luck. Together with it, we eat soup called “zouni”. It’s similar to miso soup but has rice cake in it. Interestingly the style and taste of it differ from each family and regions in Japan. After New Year’s celebration, we go to the shrine to make wishes for happiness and good health of a new year. This is called “hatsumoude” and many people buy a good luck charm or draw their fortunes there. For children, New Year’s Day is very special because they can get money from their parents and relatives. It’s called “otoshidama”, so adults must give money to kids, not just their kids but your relative’s too. For Japanese, New Year’s Day is very very busy and a wonderful day.