Celebrating Christmas in Japan

Think about Christmas. What comes to mind? Santa, presents, and a Christmas tree? Being surrounded by your loved ones?


If you’re Japanese, a different image might pop into your head. Maybe… a dinner date, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a cake.


Yes, Japan adopted the tradition of Christmas long time ago, but as with some other Western traditions that have made it to the country, it’s been changed almost beyond recognition in some key aspects. You will still see Christmas trees everywhere and some really nice German-style Christmas markets with mulled wine, and some kids do get presents. But there are some Christmas traditions that are totally different to what you’re used to and that will leave you scratching your head.


For starters, Christmas is not so much a time to spend with your family as a good opportunity to go out on a date with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Fancy restaurants all around Japan are fully booked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, full of young couples that find this to be the most romantic time of the year. Love hotels are full too!


Another thing that couples partake in around this time is eating a Christmas cake. What’s a Christmas cake, you ask? Well, it’s just a sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries, and sometimes some Christmas decoration. But you can’t have Christmas without a Christmas cake here, as it is a quintessential Christmas tradition.


Perhaps the thing that surprised people from overseas the most is that it is traditional to eat chicken for Christmas in Japan, and more specifically KFC. You’re probably used to enjoying a fulfilling and gorgeous dinner for Christmas, but here some fast food is all you need. It’s so popular that you have to book your chicken well in advance if you want to enjoy that lovely Christmas KFC! This is such a rooted tradition that Japanese people are in many cases shocked to hear Westerners don’t eat chicken for Christmas. The tradition dates back to a very successful 1974 advertising campaign by KFC, but most people in Japan assume it is as Christmassy as Santa himself.


If you want to enjoy a very different Christmas, you’ve certainly come to the right place!


Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” sergio.dom.jpn@gmail.com “, by all means contact me about anything!


Related links:
Enjoying hot springs in Japan
Celebrating Halloween in Japan
Japanese festivals: otsukimi
The art of saying “no” in Japanese
What you should know about train etiquette in Japan
Making the most out of night life in Japan



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