Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Cultures of Christmas

Commercially, Japan's take on the Christmas season is quite similar to that of the United States, from the cheerful holiday music to the beautiful decorations. However, certain traditions do differ. For example, to most families a traditional Christmas dinner usually means fried chicken with strawberry shortcake for dessert, which is eaten on December 24th.

The tradition of fried chicken originated in the 1970s when KFC launched a Christmas advertising campaign that became very successful. Fried chicken was unique enough to successfully embrace Western pop culture and was more familiar to Japanese than turkey. In most of Japan, the winter holidays do not start until December 26th, so many of the children have school on Christmas Day.

Many foreign parents in Japan have been challenged with the task of balancing Christmas traditions with their own childhood while honoring the different take that Japan has on the season. It is difficult to compete with otoshidama, New Year's money from relatives, that your children's peers receive when your relatives from other countries do not share such a tradition. It can also be difficult to explain to your child why he or she got seven or eight presents when his or her peer received only one present from santa, which is what is traditional in Japan.

The best solutions for these traditional differences is simply to learn to be flexible and embrace new traditions. Often times, the seemingly silliest things can turn into a family favorite, such as a Christmas karaoke session or watching a favorite Christmas movie as a family. 

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