Christmas Traditions in Japan

“Kurisumasu omedetou” means Merry Christmas in Japanese. While Japan has a population of over 125.76 million, less than 1% of its people are Christian. Therefore, Christmas as it is celebrated in Japan, is largely a secular holiday.

As in many other parts of the world, Christmas trees are decorated with lights and ornaments, but generally only in the large department stores and churches. Most private homes will not have Christmas trees or exchange presents, but they will celebrate with Christmas cake.

Young couples view Christmas Eve as “the night” to spend time together and restaurants are booked up long in advance. Members of Christian households attend special Christmas services where carols are sung.

About 10 years ago, the 23rd of December became a national holiday (the Emperor’s birthday) which perhaps brought Christmas a little more into the mainstream since it was only 2 days away. Christmas decoration begins early, but since Christmas is so close to New Years, one of the bigest holidays in Japan, almost all hints of Christmas in the department stores are replaced on the 26 by the decorations of the New Years Festival.