So being here in Japan over the holidays has brought to my sight something I didn’t realize before. It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t know this, but I just didn’t know quite how strongly it was this way.
In America, Christmas is a big holiday. Whether if you’re Christian or not, there are all kinds of festivities and traditions and reasons to celebrate. And in terms of decorations, there are Christmas trees, lights, red suits and red hats, Nativity scenes, songs about baby Jesus, and songs about Santa coming to town. In addition to all the decorations, Christmas is usually a day (at least in my experience and from what I’ve heard from others) when families get together and spend quality time together. We may have traditional foods that we like to eat on that day, which, again, in my experience, is usually similar to the Thanksgiving menu. Or, according to the Grinch, hoo pudding and roast beast : P
In Japan though, the family day really does seem to be New Year’s Day. The almost a week of vacation that Japanese receive is centered around not Christmas, but New Year’s. And in place of Christmas decorations, there are new year’s decorations usually made with bamboo, and there is usually osechi, traditional rice cakes made by pounding rice into a goo, essentially. In just the past month I feel like so many Japanese have asked me, “What do you eat for New Year’s in America?” Uhh…am I missing something guys? What do we eat on New Year’s? I told my 6th graders that my family and I eat shrimp on New Year’s Eve, and that was about as much as I could tell them : P
I didn’t notice the complimentary reflection of me in the background in this picture : P
Having said all this, the Japanese are aware of Christmas in that they are very good about putting up Christmas decorations the month leading up to Christmas, including trees, lights, and santa hats of all colors! In the local supermarket, I had to smile at this sign they had up throughout the store.
“Let’s Make a Christmas!” But there’s no question about it; here in Japan, the big family holiday at the end (beginning) of the year is New Year’s.