Is this strange? Japanese Christmas style

Introduction
What do you know about Christmas? I guess most of you know about Christmas Day. How do you feel about Christmas? Do you like that day? Perhaps you are not so interested in it. I am really interested in Christmas because I like the Christmas atmosphere and decorations. In addition, I can get some Christmas presents. In this report, I would like to write about Japanese Christmas style, and I will compare Japanese Christmas style with the style in other countries. I think that it is very interesting to know about the culture of other countries. For example, what do you do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Spend time at your home? Go to church? Go shopping or have dinner at a stylish restaurant? I guess it is totally different in each country. What is the common Christmas style in your country?

Method
I gathered my data on the internet, the website “surveymonkey.” In addition, I asked my acquaintances about Christmas in their countries. There are fourteen countries and 24 people responded to my questions.




Japanese
First of all, I want you to know about Japanese. According to “Wikipedia,” (2006) the number of Christians in Japan is only 0.8 percent of the population, so most Japanese are non-Christian. Even so, we decorate our department stores and streets with Christmas decorations during Christmas season. The reason is Christmas is just a big event for Japanese like Halloween. Some of you may think that it is strange, but Japanese, especially young people, like having fun through such events.

Early to appear, and early to get taken down
In early November, there are Christmas trees, decorations, and illuminations appearing in many departments and streets, also we can hear Christmas songs everywhere in Japan. In fact, I saw some Christmas decorations in the department store on October 31 in my city. After Halloween, the decorations change from Halloween to Christmas decorations quickly. I thought it was too early to start decorating but it is common in Japan.
In late December there are no Christmas decorations anywhere in Japan. Christmas decorations get taken down entirely on December 26 and we decorate everywhere for New Years Holiday in the same day. I heard that only Japanese do so. New Year is a more important holiday than Christmas for us.
How about in other countries? According to my questionnaire posted on “surveymonkey,” and the website “World Christmas,” almost all counties such as America, Canada, Korea, Argentina, Germany, France, Iceland, Japan, and so on display Christmas decorations in November. In Australia and Holland Christmas decorations appear in early December. On the other hand, when the decorations get taken down is December in Japan and Korea. In other countries it is in January.
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What do you do and who do you spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with?
Christmas is for couples! Almost all Japanese people (especially young people) think so. We can hear a lot of love songs everywhere before Christmas and romantic Christmas illuminations arouse the hearts of many couples. Many restaurants and bars make some special Christmas dinner menus for couples. Moreover, children under fifteen years old spend their time with their family. However, people over fifteen years old, who do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend, spend their time with their friends and they have a Christmas party. That is Japanese Christmas style. Japanese do not assemble at one place to meet their family on Christmas Eve and Day, though we assemble on New Years Day. However, December 24 (Christmas Eve) is more important day than December 25 (Christmas Day) for many Japanese. Many young Japanese spend their time with their friends, boyfriend or girlfriend on Christmas Eve, and they spend time with their family on Christmas Day.


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I went to Canada last year and I heard there that almost all shopping centers and supermarkets are closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so they can not go shopping, but of course we can here in Japan. Therefore we can go shopping, see some movies, or eat delicious cakes in a café on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On the other hand, many people have to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to provide service for the customers.



Christmas trees and Christmas presents
Many people display a Christmas tree in their house in Japan. However, the way they are displayed is different than in other countries such as America. Some people display a Christmas tree in the living room and some people display one in the entrance way or other free space in Japan. In America, most people display a Christmas tree in the living room because the living room is the central place where their family always meets.
I went to a Christmas party that was held by one of my American friends. There were many Christmas presents under the Christmas tree even though the family had only three people. I really envied them because they can get three or four presents per person. In my case, I can get presents only from my parents and my grandparents. I have an elder brother and a younger sister but we have never exchanged Christmas presents.
By the way, when do you think Japanese open their presents? Most Japanese open their present just after they have received it. Few Japanese open it on the morning of Christmas Day. Moreover, we do not have Boxing Day.

Christmas decorations and illuminations
The Christmas tree is the most popular decoration. I already wrote that many people display Christmas trees in their houses and in department stores in Japan. Almost none of the Christmas trees are real trees, so we use artificial trees at home. We use colored lights and some plastic stars, candies or candles for ornaments of the Christmas tree. Next, we hang a Christmas wreath on the door. Candles are also popular decorations and their light makes a romantic atmosphere.
I love Christmas illuminations! They make me happy and the lights have a strong effect on me. My home city Sapporo which is in the northern part of Japan always has snow in winter, thus a white Christmas. We have a Snow Festival and many trees and streets are decorated with beautiful colored lights, throughout the winter, as well. I can not wait to see such as beautiful illuminations in my city. The illuminations of my city almost always use blue or white lights. The color is very beautiful and romantic.


What do you eat on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?
Turkey is a very famous Christmas meal in America. One of my American friends said that to cut turkey for such celebrations was the men’s job. When I went to Canada, I ate Christmas dinner at my Canadian friend’s house. She served us a big turkey with sweet and sour cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green peas, carrots, and Christmas cakes. The meal was tasty, though it was the first time for me to eat turkey because I usually eat chicken for Christmas.
We in Japan do not have any traditional dishes for Christmas. However we just want to imitate American style, but many Japanese eat chicken instead of turkey which is rarely sold here. In addition, we eat Christmas cake following British custom. According to my questionnaire posted on “surveymonkey,” one of the Germans answered that he eats sausages and potatoes. I am aware sausages are very famous in Germany so when I found this answer, I was very surprised but happy to know about it. Also, I searched on the website “World Christmas,” about Christmas food in other countries. In America, Canada, Australia, the custom is almost the same. In New Zealand, they also eat turkey and many vegetables and they drink beer and wine. In Iceland, they eat turkey but they also eat chipped mutton or lamb, pork, and grouse. A few people eat reindeer. In addition, they eat a type of rice pudding for dessert. In Papua New Guinea, they usually eat pork barbecue for some feasts.


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Santa Claus
A long white beard, red clothes, a plump belly, a big white bag with many presents, and reindeer. He is Santa Claus! When I was a child, I guess till four or five years old, I believed in Santa Claus. If I have been a good child, Santa Claus will come to my house while I am sleeping and leave a Christmas present. I believed so. However, according to the results of my questionnaire posted on “surveymonkey,” one of the German subjects said that they do not believe in Santa Claus, but they believe in an angel called “the Christ-child.” It was very interesting for me because I thought most people believe in Santa Claus. I searched on the website “World Christmas” about it in other countries. I found many interesting truths about Santa Claus. The company “Coca Cola” popularized the figure of Santa Claus (A long white beard, red clothes, a plump belly…) in 1931, so American Santa Claus is like that, and also Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Korea, Argentina, France (French people call him Father Christmas) and Japan are same. However in Iceland, there are thirteen Santa Clauses and their clothes are like peasants. Holland’s Santa Claus is a little thinner than America’s, and actually Saint Nicholas is more famous for them. The people in Papua New Guinea and Congo do not know about Santa Claus.


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Conclusion
Through this research, I found that Christmas style is very different in each country. That cause is not only religion but country because we can not obtain turkeys so easily in Japan, so even if we are Christian, we will not be able to eat a turkey dinner. In addition, I found through my research that Japanese have a peculiar style to celebrate Christmas. I considered why such bright and joyful celebrations were held during this part of the year. I guess people are terrified by the darkness. The days are getting shorter latterly and night time is very long in winter, so they want to keep bright around them. Therefore they display many colored lights in their cities and they want to think about happy things. There are many things that I still do not know about Christmas. I would like to eat Christmas dinner in other countries and I want you to stay in Japan during Christmas. I think you could experience many new and unique things here. To know another country is very interesting and I could find many new things. If I have a chance to talk with people who came from other countries, I would like to talk a lot about such differences in our cultures.


Bibliography
International Writing Exchange Round 51, 52. Retrieved November 15, 2006 from http://www.writeit.fi/sys/course/view.php?id=61
Japanese Religion. Wikipedia retrieved October 8, 2006 from http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E3%81%AE%E5%AE%97%E6%95%99
Surveymonkey. Retrieved November 11, 2006 from http://www.surveymonkey.com/MySurveys.asp?Rnd=0.8539545
World Christmas. Retrieved November 16, 2006 from http://www.rcc.net/comitia/theme7/ref7a.htm

Personal communication on MSN messenger and Skype
Total : 14 countries 24 people


Thank you.