Christmas as a holiday in Japan is a bit different than Christmas in the west. It’s a day for the kiddies and presents, if they are not an adolescent and still believe in Santa Claus. Otherwise, no presents! Why? Because Santa is the only one that brings presents, so once you stop believing in him that party is over. However it is common in Japan to give Christmas presents.
Hoteiosho is a priest or a God who closely resembles our Santa Claus. Hoteiosho is depicted as a kind old man carrying a huge pack in which he brings presents to local houses for the children. Children think he has eyes in the back of his head, so they behave at their best in case he is around.
There is no traditional ham or plum pudding on the Christmas table in Japan. It’s not a family holiday. It is a day spent giving to others especially doing nice things for those that are ill in hospitals.
And it’s not Christmas day that is the big day in Japan! It’s Christmas eve – more later. But that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise in a land where only 1 per cent of the people are of the Christian faith or belief.
The Christmas holiday is mostly for couples with Christmas Eve being the big day and a huge date night. Christmas Eve is the time for boyfriends and girlfriends to get together, exchange gifts and spend a romantic dinner and evening together much like Valentine’s day is celebrated in the west. Advertisements appear for special Christmas Eve and Christmas day hotel and restaurant dinners and shows, generally with a strong romantic theme. So if you have ever felt lonely at Christmas don’t come to Japan for the holiday. There is literally a desperate scramble here to get a date for the Christmas holidays that borders on the pathetic. There are reports that single women don’t even like to talk about the holiday. So if you want to make one of them happy and ask them out you may not get turned down. Just bring a strawberry cake with you as it seems to be the traditional food of choice.
It’s hard to get a reservation at most nice restaurants in Tokyo on the night of Christmas Eve. Most are booked so be sure to get your reservations early and get that table. You wouldn’t want to be out in the cold with your date.