Christmas Love in Japan

christmas_tree_in_marunouchiContinuing from last week’s look at the typical Christmas meal in Japan, this week we’re going to take a closer look at the way the holiday is usually celebrated in Japan. In the West, with a number of notable exceptions, the holiday is primarily a reason to gather with family and friends to enjoy each other’s company and exchange gifts. While some Japanese families give Christmas presents to their children on Christmas morning, the holiday is primarily associated romance in Japan.

Christmas Eve is actually the focus of most of the Christmas celebration in Japan, although most Japanese don’t get either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day off from work or school. The time for celebration is in the evening on the 24th of December. Friends may get together for a party, but many couples choose to have a special evening alone. While not everyone cares, some people feel especially lonely if they don’t have a date for Christmas Eve, sort of like some people feel on Valentine’s Day in the West.

Confessing your crush to someone on Christmas Eve also has special significance. And no one except the very socially clueless would ask someone of the opposite gender to do something alone with them that evening unless they intended it to be a date because the evening has a particularly romantic connotation.

Going out to eat at classy restaurants, having a romantic evening in a love hotel (a topic for future blogs!), or just walking along the sidewalks and shopping centers to look at Christmas lights in the dark are popular activities for dates on Christmas Eve. Not all of Japan gets a lot of snow each winter (the northern part does, however), but much of the country is cold in December (excluding the tropical-climate southern islands), so couples bundle up on their dates–but fashionably. Many Japanese women wear fashionable skirts year-round, but they may pair them up with a warm coat, tall boots, mittens, scarves and hats.

Typical gifts exchanged between couples on Christmas Eve include cute and handmade items as well as more expensive jewelry and watches. It’s especially traditional for young women to hand-knit scarves (called “mafuraa,” from the English word “muffler,” in Japanese) for their dates or even for a boy to whom they intend to confess on or before Christmas Eve. The young man would then, of course, wear the scarf on their night out in the cold.

Would you like to think of Christmas Eve as a romantic occasion? Would you hand-knit a scarf as a gift if you could?

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Tags: christmas, date, holidays, japan, japanese culture, japanese customs, romance