Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Eve

Christmas Day, but here in Japan it goes on as if it were any other ordinary day. The neighborhood kids have gone off to school (today is their last day) and Tetsu is off at work.

I suppose Christmas Eve is more of a celebration in Japan than Christmas actually is, and Eve is a time for romantic dinners with the boyfriend/girlfriend of the year. Expensive trinkets are bought for the current partner and hotels and fancy restaurants plan a romantic evening for their customers, but the family aspect is sorely lacking. It is a matter of course that the older children in the family will go out on dates or at the very least spend the night with friends partying (Disneyland is especially popular)

Within the home, the Christmas menu is usually roast chicken legs (already cooked because most Japanese women don't use an oven) and with all the chicken legs at the supermarket yesterday I wondered what happened to the other parts of the chicken! I think fathers are given the job of stopping by a bakery or a supermarket after work and picking up a Christmas cake so that the family can celebrate the evening together. Again, because very little baking is done in the households, Christmas cakes make a huge profit in Japan and everyone is always very surprised when I tell them that this isn't a custom in America. How can you have Christmas without a Christmas cake?! As for presents, children are usually given one from Santa that is placed beside their pillows during the night. No Christmas trees that fill the room, no stockings, no milk and cookies for Santa etc.

For all that said above, you'd think that my family would make a big celebration of Christmas but actually we have always had a very "see what the day brings" attitude. I do more decorating than other neighbors but you'd be surprised to see how small our little two foot Christmas tree is that sits on the corner table. Nearly all the decorations are handmade by myself or the kids and as the years have gone by it is getting overloaded. I've contemplated getting a bigger tree but as it is just Tetsu and me now, this one will probably suffice. As for a dinner, maybe I'm a bit of a Scrooge but just because everyone else in the country is having roast chicken is no reason that I have to have it too! I usually just ask my family what they have a hungering for, sushi, curry rice, spagetti or whatever. I also was anti-Christmas cake (though I often baked cookies) and so our family never adopted that custom (some years my neighbor brought over half of her cake so that my poor children would have a proper Christmas!)

In general though, our family has always been involved with the church Christmas Eve program, sometimes just enjoying it, sometimes helping with the preparations. My children might tell you that when they got older they didn't appreciate having to go out with their parents to an evening candle service but I think they must have some good memories. I'd hurry the kids along to church and Tetsu would meet us there making an unusually early departure from work. After an Eve service and fellowship with friends we'd head home to a quick dinner and we'd make the decision as to whether we should open presents at 9:00 or just wait until the next evening. When the kids were little my mother would go all out and send lots of presents for them and it was almost embarrassing to have people see all the presents around and under the table.

"What! All these presents for just your two kids?!"
"Well, some are for Tetsu, and I suppose some are for me too."
"You and your husband give each other Christmas presents? What a lovely-dovey couple!"

Last night's Christmas Eve service at church was very nice and we had an attendance of about 60 people. That's an unusually large group! Non-Christians still find it very difficult to enter a church no matter how welcoming we try to make it. We had a puppet show and a candle service and everyone enjoyed homemade cookies afterwards. By the time we got home Tetsu and I decided to leave present opening until tonight so my vest and hanten for him are still hidden away.

"Light the Advent Candle Four,
Think of joy forever more
Christ child in a stable born,
Gift of love that Christmas morn."


Quilt Pixie said...

Its interesting to hear how Christmas is celebrated in Japan... I somehow think I'd fit in so many ways -- my son and I seldom decorate much (sometimes like this year, not at all). Gifts are small, often unwrapped since niether of us believes in shopping "because we're supposed to". And we never have a special/traditional meal unless out at someone's home :-)

Regardless of how you celebrate, I hope you have a peaceful and blessed christmas.

CONNIE W said...

I am surprised at the difference in the customs since Japan does copy some of the western ways. I hope your Christmas day is very special.

Shelina said...

Hmm, Sushi made a cake yesterday - I wonder if she knows about the Christmas cake tradition. It was jello cake with cherry jello and cool whip red gel decoration. We didn't decorate at all this year.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

Luna said...

Dear Tanya,

it is interesting to read about celebrating Christmas in Japan. Today I talked and asked us about that with my husband Christian and now I can read about it. Thank you!
I like your small tree. It is lovely with your handmade decorations. Oh, you also can make braided hearts.
I hope you have a happy Christmas.

Love and hugs

kimiyo said...

Hi Tanya,

I remember how we used to celebrate Christmas in Japan. Yes, we got chicken and Christmas cake! It is my birthday (Yes, I am a Christmas baby!)so I got some gift (I don't know if I was getting because it was my birthday or my mother was following Christmas tradition)

This year, We had Christmas dinner with my husband's mom and stepfather and our four children. We had ham, mashed potato, mashed sweet potato, green beans, stuffed mushrooms,and salads. I made Tiramisu for dessert and it came out pretty good.

Usually we buy Christmas tree but this year we skipped and borrowed our 12 year girl's 1 foot tall fake tree. I don't know how my kids felt about it but I though it's cute.