JC (10)

According to many people, Japan doesn’t celebrate Christmas the “right” way. We’re not sure what that means exactly, but even Japanese folks seem to agree that a Christmas in the Land of the Rising Sun isn’t quite what you might expect to find in most other countries. And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course! Who can complain about adding a new spin on some old fun, right?

But just how strange is a Japanese Christmas? Well, it’s no little green men from Mars, but we have four words for you: Potato Salad Christmas Tree.


・Family Traditions

Even in Japan, Christmas can be a time for family to gather and enjoy each other’s company. Though sometimes people pick unusual ways to pass the time…like gambling!

My family’s tradition is a Christmas Money contest with Rock, Paper, Scissors…we draw straws to get some leftover change in the order of who won the most games. But every year the amount of money my mother prepares is so small it just leaves me shaking my head. LOL

Presents in Japan can also be somewhat…unexpected.

After conferring with Santa, it was decided that the presents for my family would be: 10 sticks of umaibo (puffed corn stick) times our age. It was the same last year. So, 180 sticks + 140 sticks + 90 sticks = 410 sticks. Getting them all was a pain too! But remembering lying down and then getting up with the kids and acting surprised, it’s so funny!

▼Not the worst present you could get…

JC (13)

Hmmm…we guess parents lying to their kids about Santa is something people the world over can relate to…

Secret Santa events and having no idea what to get are also familiar to nearly everyone.

In my family we draw lots to decide who to get presents for, and I drew my little sister. Which means I’m going to Loft (a Japanese chain store which sells everything from dishes to cosmetics) to go rummaging…

▼Loft! For all your lazy Christmas shopping needs!

JC (2)

Well, we’re sure your sister will appreciate the thought anyway.

Of course, one thing Japan is best known for is mixing and matching traditions! A choose-your-own-adventure of holidays, if you will.

Christmas…it’s almost Christmas, huh? When I think of Christmas it reminds me of this: For a long time, my family has had this tradition of offering a Christmas cake to the butsudan (a Buddhist family alter in the home for veneration of deceased ancestors). Ah! Or sometimes chicken.

JC (1)

Well, we bet your great, great, great, great grandparents appreciate it!

・Food Free-For-All

Naturally, staying in contact with your family is important in Japan…

I made a family group on Line (a smartphone app that allows for free text messaging and the like). We’re all getting excited talking about what we’re cooking for Christmas! That’s my family for you. LOL

Hey, it sounds better than your uncle getting drunk and peeing on the tree…

But when it comes to Christmas food in Japan, the one king to rule them all is…cake!

From the 15th to the 25th, we eat Christmas cake every day at my home. We just go crazy! Every day for 10 days, we eat cake. And get fat. And get sick of it. And get fat.

This seems like it’s a common theme…

At my house, the Christmas tradition is: Everyone gets their own, cake. A whole cake! (>ω<)/

▼Wow, that’s a lot of cake!

JC (11)

In case you were wondering, Christmas cakes were first sold in Japan in 1910. Though they don’t seem to have caught on overseas yet!

But not everyone eats cake–some people appreciate something a bit healthier.

My family’s Christmas tradition is eating sushi we wrapped ourselves.

Hmmm…we think it’s time to start a new tradition: Cake and sushi!

And then there’s this, the strangest food tradition we’ve ever seen…

・The Potato Salad Christmas Tree

We really cannot explain this at all…

We built the traditional Potato Salad Christmas Tree again this year!


JC (5)

We made it again this year! Merry Christmas! (It’s actually Christmas Eve, but whatever.) My family tradition!


JC (6)

It’s Christmas, so I tried making a Potato Salad Christmas Tree.


JC (7)

Well, we suppose it makes as much sense as a yuletide log or a Great Pumpkin, but still…what the hell??

・Wait, What Day Is It?

Remembering what day it is should be simple–we have calendars on our walls, phones, computers, and the TV news! Yet, it seems like Christmas sneaks up on us every year! Apparently in Japan not everyone celebrates on the same day…

Based on all the commotion going on at my house, it’s already Christmas! (Tweeted on December 10.)

For others, Christmas takes its time showing up!

In my house, we don’t really have Christmas until the 29th. LOL

・Surprising the Foreigners

It seems that gift giving on Christmas in Japan is a bit different compared to other countries.

In the United States, parents and children give each other Christmas presents, but in Japan, kids who believe in Santa Claus are the only ones who get presents. A peculiar custom…

JC (3)

And that’s not the only thing that’s “strange” about Christmas in Japan.

When a foreigner saw how Japanese people celebrated Christmas, he thought it was strange and asked, “Why do people spend the holiday with their co-workers, friends, or lovers?” He then said, “You’re supposed to spend time with your family, not your boyfriend or girlfriend!”

Well, we figure you can spend the day (or night) with whoever you like, but it is certainly more of a family holiday in Western countries, isn’t it?

Then again, not everyone is able to spend time with their family…

While I was walking down the street in Kyoto, a Buddhist monk suddenly should out to me, “Merry Christmas!” I was so surprised!

▼”Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!”

JC (12)

Of course, in Japan, Christmas can also be a time to think about those in need. This was what one confused Chinese family witnessed:

Suddenly, 150 motorcycles zipped by–all ridden by Santa Clauses! They were celebrating Christmas while also carrying banners saying “Stop Child Abuse!”

JC (8)

That’s so surreal it’s beautiful!

So, Christmas in Japan may not quite be what many people would normally expect from the holiday, but it certainly seems like people enjoy themselves! And we really can’t think of a better way to spend the holidays than enjoying yourself.

Happy holidays and stay safe everybody–we don’t want any of our wonderful readers to get crushed by falling Potato Salad Christmas Trees!

Source: Naver Matome
Images: Omoshiro Gazokan, Wikpedia (Loft, butsudan, monk, Santa Clause), Twitter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), Japanese.China, Umaibo Doumei