Christmas in Japan, Adaptations of American Holiday Traditions

How does a country celebrate Christmas when only 1% of the population is actually Christian? With KFC and strawberry cake of course! In the land of ramen and sushi, Christmas is not an official holiday and it doesn’t have the same level of religious significance as you will find in the West. In fact, many in Japan call it X-Mas instead of Christmas. Over the last few decades, the Christmas traditions that are more secular like bright lights, Christmas markets, and festive trees have taken hold in Japan. Along with their own unique adaptations of some American holiday traditions. Check out the top adaptations that make Christmas in Japan a fun and interesting cultural experience.

Kentucky for Christmas

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Source: PenguinPonders[/caption] When turkey is a rare commodity, Christmas chicken can fill the void for the traditional Christmas day turkey dinner. In 1974, KFC, the American fast food chain saw an opportunity to capitalize on this void and launched their “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii” or “Kentucky for Christmas” marketing campaign. They started selling Christmas Chicken buckets that year, which included the traditional 11 herb fried chicken recipe and a bottle of wine. The marketing campaign “at Christmas you eat chicken” was incredibly successful, making Japan’s adaptation of the turkey feast, the quintessential Japanese Christmas tradition. Now families gather around a bucket of Christmas chicken, which includes the traditional fried chicken, along with options for a bowl of salad, campaign, and a christmas cake. Every year there are long lines for the holiday feast in a bucket. You must order your bucket ahead of time in order to secure the beloved Christmas chicken.  

Christmas Cake

In the U.S. strawberry shortcakes typically pop up in bakeries during the summer when strawberries are in peak season. In Japan, on the other hand, you will find it flying off the bakery shelves during Christmas time. They call it ‘Christmas Cake’ and their version is a lot less sugary and more delicately decorated than our version. It typically is a very fluffy sponge cake with whip cream and strawberries for the filling and a decadent display of a Christmas wonderland on top, complete with miniature figurines of Santa, trees, and maybe even the occasional Mickey or Minnie Mouse. It’s their way of indulging in an American tradition (a less sugary tradition than pumpkin and apple pies), and making it all their own for their version of Christmas.  

Christmas is for Romance

[caption id="attachment_1336" align="aligncenter" width="602"] Source: travelience.com[/caption] In Japan, couples treat Christmas Eve as we would Valentine's Day here in the U.S. With gifts only being exchanged between couples, department stores quickly sell out of the common gifts like jewelry and perfumes. For Westerners, it might seem strange that there isn’t an expectation to give presents to kids, other family members, friends, or co-workers. But in Japan, Christmas Eve is for Romance. Couple like to go out for a romantic dinner, eat decadent Christmas cake, then take a stroll to see the “illumination” Christmas light displays, exchange expensive gifts, and end the night at a romantic hotel.