Christmas is not a traditional Japanese celebration but they have embraced this western festival with their usual enthusiasm.
Christmas appeals to the Japanese, not just because of their love of shopping and twinkly lights, but they love celebration and giving presents and, of course, enjoying an event with a special meal.
It was introduced to Japan in the 16th century and has gained momentum in the last few decades. It is not a national holiday – many people go to work and shops and businesses are open as usual – but they do decorate their houses, give gifts and enjoy quality family time.
I was amazed to discover this week that sushi is not the most popular dish on the Menu in Japan at Christmas. Amazingly, Christmas Day is the biggest day of the year for eating Kentucky Fried Chicken. Families order buckets of the popular fried chicken to eat at home together. For a culture with such a normally, healthy diet this seems bizarre.
Restaurants do advertise Christmas dinner but it isn’t roast turkey with all the trimmings, just literally dinner on Christmas Day so you may well be able to some noodles or sushi rolls if you visit the country over the festive season. In fact, Christmas is known as a romantic holiday for couples, rather like Valentine’s Day and there are lots of special deals on eating out.
The other big tradition is the Christmas cake – not the traditional fruitcake but a light, two-layered sponge cake with chocolate or white icing and lots of kitschy decorations.
Christmas in Japan is all about having fun and enjoying the celebratory elements of our western festive season rather than a full family holiday like it is here. Why not add a Japanese flavour to your Christmas food with a delicious sponge cake or a festive sushi dinner instead of the heavy roast dinners and fruit cake that we eat every day of the holidays in this country. Not sure about the KFC though - Merii Kurisumasu.
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