Merī Kurisumasu – Christmas in Japan

Shortly before the holidays, we wanted to address the topic of Christmas and look into a country that, at first glance, exhibits little relation to this Christian celebration: Japan. Contrary to many assumptions, Christmas is celebrated enthusiastically there, and it’s celebrated in a very unique way.

In terms of religion, Japan is mostly characterized by Buddhism and Shinto. Just one percent of the population is Christian. Most of the holidays celebrated in Japan are thus Buddhist or Shinto. But thanks to globalization and the influence of the media, more and more Western traditions are finding their way into the culture. The Christmas holiday, for instance, is enjoying ever-increasing popularity in Japan. Today’s blog post is consequently about how Christmas is celebrated in the Land of the Rising Sun.

In Japan, Christmas has more of a commercial than religious background. As a result, December 24, 25 and 26 are not official holidays, but rather normal workdays. The actual national holiday of Japan is December 23, as this is the day on which the emperor’s birthday is celebrated. So how do Japanese people celebrate Christmas?

Lights, cake and romance

Unlike the tradition in the West, December 24 is not celebrated with the family. In the Land of the Rising Sun, this celebration tends to be spent with a partner. It’s a day for romance. Couples often meet up for romantic evenings, take walks through festively decorated, well-lit cities, visit theaters or concerts and wind down evenings over candlelit dinners.

Cross-cultural training, Japan, Christmas worldwideThere’s no traditional Christmas dinner, but chicken dishes and special Christmas cakes with strawberries and whipped cream are particularly popular. Large presents are uncommon in Japan, but small gifts for romantic partners are welcome [e.g., flowers]. Every now and then, very close friends also give each other presents, and children sometimes receive gifts from their parents.

If one happens not to be romantically involved on Christmas, he or she can also spend the evening with good friends or colleagues at one of the many Christmas parties on offer. The typical family celebration in Japan is New Year’s Day, when proximity to family is deliberately sought after in order to reflectively bid farewell to the old year and say hello to the new one.

As you can see, Western customs can also be found in countries where they wouldn’t necessarily be expected. There are certainly some surprising differences in implementation, but the basic intention is the same nearly everywhere – to spend time with those most important to you.

Danke, thanks, gracias and merci!

We hope that you enjoyed this little Christmas-themed excursion, and with this last blog post of the year, we’d like to bid you farewell. We sincerely thank all the readers who have attentively followed our blog this year. We’re very pleased if our articles have been able to help you along your cross-cultural path.

The entire Eidam & Partner team wishes you “Merī Kurisumasu”, and we wish you, your colleagues and your family a cheerful Christmas celebration, as well as health and success in the coming year. You can look forward to more exciting posts about business and culture in 2018 :)!


About Sophie Humpisch

I studied business communication and cross-cultural competence. During my studies I lived abroad for a long time and therefore experienced cross-cultural differences on my own. I have been with Eidam & Partner since 2014, being responsible for the support and recruiting of cross-cultural experts. Eidam & Partner offers worldwide services related to cross-cultural communication, such as cross-cultural training, cross-cultural coaching, eLearning and preparation for international assignments for more than 80 target countries.
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