Every December, countries all over the world celebrate Christmas, and Japan is no exception. While many of the holiday traditions we have become accustomed to in the United States are alive and well in Japan, the Japanese people have developed their own customs that are quite unique and make Christmas in Japan its own distinctive version of the holiday we have all come to adore. How is Christmas in Japan different than Christmas in America?
Traditionally celebrated worldwide as the birth date of Jesus Christ, Christmas in Japan is actually treated as a secular commemoration, celebrated regardless of one’s religion. In fact, only 1% of the Japanese population is Christian! Oddly enough, one of the starkest differences is how the Japanese view Christmas as a romantic holiday [New Year’s holiday in Japan is traditionally the time where families gather]. Typically, on Christmas Eve couples will stroll the city viewing all the Christmas lights and go for dinner at a fancy/romantic restaurant. December 24th has become a “second Valentine’s Day,” stemming from the scenes of lovers walking hand in hand, gazing at the lights in Western Christmas films. As a result, a typical Japanese Christmas includes ice skating, giving gifts, a romantic dinner and gazing at the lights.
While the concept of love and Christmas may be more familiar than I’ve led you to believe, I can assure you that the next Japanese Christmas tradition will blow your mind. When we think of Christmas foods, our minds jump to dishes like glazed ham and roasted turkey. In Japan, the Christmas food of choice is actually fried chicken! As a matter of fact, fried chicken is in such high demand during Christmas season that a certain American fast food chain [KFC] takes pre-orders as early as November! KFC has become synonymous with the holiday, thanks to an effective marketing campaign that started in the 1970s.
Dating back to 1922, the Japanese have had an infatuation with eating kurisumasu keeki [Christmas cake]. Traditionally in the United States, popular Christmas desserts like gingerbread cookies and pie are the most desirable desserts but in Japan, the sponge cake-based strawberry short cake takes the crown. Remarkably, this obsession is a result of Fujiya Co. [confectionary manufacturer] aggressively marketing the famous cakes in the mid 20th century with the blunt tagline of “kurisumasu ni keeki o tabemashou” or “Let’s eat cake on Christmas."
Although only a sliver of the Japanese population celebrates Christmas for religious reasons, it has become incredibly mainstream across Japanese society. And like they have done for hundreds of years, the Japanese have put their own unique twist on the most widely celebrated holiday. If you are looking to switch up your Christmas holiday and celebrate like they do in Japan, you are going to need a sake that compliments both strawberry shortcake and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Luckily, Sake Social has you covered with our assortment of brews and gift items that were made specifically to enhance and accompany any holiday cuisine you could ever imagine. Happy Holidays to all!