Christmas in Japan is quite different from the Christmas celebrated in most countries. Only 1% of the Japanese population is estimated to be Christian, but in spite of this, the Japanese are great lovers of festivals and celebrations, including Christmas.
December 25th is not a national holiday, so, the main celebration revolves around Christmas eve. Christmas is mostly a commercial event in Japan. Many people don’t know exactly what the origin of Christmas is. Therefore, the Japanese have adopted many Western customs related to observing Christmas. Lots of people decorate Christmas trees at home and hold parties around this holiday. Japanese people tend to find things of interest from abroad and transform them into something that is uniquely Japanese. It’s a Japanese way to celebrate Christmas Eve by eating Christmas cakes, which the father of the family purchases on his way home from work. Stores all over carry versions of this Christmas cake and drop the price of it drastically on December 25th in order to sell everything out by the 26th.
Christmas Eve has also become a night for lovers to go out and spend a romantic time together at fancy restaurants or hotels. It isn’t easy to make reservations for such restaurants and hotels at the last minute on this day. For the more elderly couples, many hotels host dinner shows featuring major singers, actors, and actresses. Tickets to these shows, due to the season, are very pricy.
Christmas presents are exchanged between people with romantic commitments as well as close friends. The romantic gifts tend to be ‘cute’ and often include Teddy Bears, flowers, sweets baskets, scarves, rings and other jewelry. Christmas cards are also given to close friends. Besides exchanging Christmas gifts, there is a custom of sending oseibo (the end of the year gift), corporate gifts from one company to another.
For Japanese people, Christmas is an enjoyable day in the year, but New Year is much more important for them.