Christmas Day is really Valentine’s Day in Japan
From where I come from (Singapore), Christmas Day is a time to drink and party way too much, with the occasional obligatory gift to colleagues and family. Unless you’re Christian or Catholic, Christmas is just another public holiday.
In Japan, it’s similar in that respect — religion has no presence on December 25. In fact, you don’t even get a day off and I think it seriously affects expats who are used to celebrating it seriously. They feel kind of sad and lost in this strange land that doesn’t see it as a day for bonding with family.
And the weirdest part about Christmas in Japan is it’s really Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day exists, too, but it’s not really for lovers. In Japan, it’s associated more with corporate culture where the women are expected to give chocolates to the men. It’s always the opposite here. Then, there’s White Day, which is March 14, when the men have to return the favor, so the chocolates go back to the ladies in the kaisha (office).
When I taught English to Japanese adults a year ago, all my students complained of this tiresome ritual and chocolate jumps twice in price the day before. Most penny-pinching folks will buy boxes two weeks before the actual day to save money and it’s not too early so that the chocolate goes bad.
But Christmas Day is a time for unicorns, violin playing, diamonds, and marshmallows to come out in great big grand gestures. Even then, only the young and starry-eyed think it’s an important occasion.