Although it is estimated that less than 2% of Japan’s population is Christian, they have adopted many Western traditions. The Japanese are great lovers of festivals and celebrations, including Christmas. But in Japan, Christmas is more of a commercialized romantic holiday, kind of like Valentine’s Day. The main celebration revolves around Christmas Eve, when couples enjoy a night on the town– going for a walk to see the sparkling light displays, having a romantic dinner for two (many hotels also host dinner shows on that evening), and exchanging small gifts (such as teddy bears, flowers, scarves, and jewelry). Japanese Christians spend Christmas Day doing nice things for others, especially those who are sick in hospitals.
A traditional Japanese Christmas food is the “Christmas cake,” a white sponge cake covered with whipped cream and decorated with strawberries. Thanks to Japan’s lack of turkeys and some clever marketing by KFC in the 1970s, chicken has become the traditional Japanese Christmas dinner. An older Japanese custom is that of presenting oseibo (the end of the year gift) to anyone whom has supported you during the year and whom you feel gratitude towards. Japanese “forget-the-year” parties called bonenkai also take place during December, with games and dancing. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated at home with the family.
Here is a nice video montage that shows some Japanese Christmas spirit in animes:
Many animes include special Christmas episodes. These include:
- Toradora! Ep. 17, 18, 19
- Clannad Ep. 9, 10
- K-On! Ep. 7
- Honey and Clover Ep. 4, 10, 17
- Lucky Star Ep. 11
- Azumanga Daioh Ep. 17
- CardCaptor Sakura Ep. 35
- Kimi ni Todoke Ep. 22
- Chrono Crusade Ep. 12
And finally there is The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, a full-length anime movie that takes place at Christmas time.
December 16th. Christmas is one week away, and Haruhi decides to throw a Christmas party. She’s going to bring home-cooked food.
December 18th. Haruhi has apparently vanished from the face of the Earth. Kyon is the only person who retains any knowledge of her existence.
Some people have complained that the movie was too long at 2 hours and 40 minutes. But I feel that that time was put to good use. It was just plain awesome. The plot line was incredible, it was visually stunning and kept your eyes glued to the screen.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiyais one of my top ten favorite animes. It’s a Christmas classic right up there with A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life.
[Note that to understand a lot of this movie you should first watch Haruhi Suzumiya seasons one and two, lest you be lost in the multiple references to earlier episodes. If you have forgotten a lot of the series, or have not seen the series at all, you will have a hard time following what’s going on.]
Watch “The Greatest Anime Christmas”: