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A Festive Journey: Discovering Christmas Traditions in Japan


Hello, festive friends! Christmas is an event that’s celebrated all around the globe, but did you know that each country has its unique way of marking this joyful holiday?

Today, we’re embarking on an exciting journey to explore Christmas Traditions in Japan! This country is known for blending tradition with innovation, and its holiday celebrations are no different. So, let’s dive in and discover some beautiful Japanese Christmas traditions.

The Origin of Christmas in Japan

Now, you might wonder, “How did Christmas end up in Japan?” Good question! Despite Christianity not being widely practiced in Japan, Christmas has established itself as a beloved holiday, although it’s celebrated in a more commercial and secular way.

Christmas was introduced to Japan by Christian missionaries, but it wasn’t until the late 20th century that it really started to take hold. After World War II, with the influx of Western culture, the Japanese began to celebrate Christmas, albeit in a very different way to Western countries.

Christmas in Japan is less about Santa than spreading happiness and love. It’s a time for friends, couples, and gift-giving!

Santa Claus in Japanese Culture

Talking about Santa, let’s discuss how jolly old St. Nick is perceived in Japan. Known as “Santa Kurohsu” or “Santa-san,” he’s a recognized figure, but his story differs slightly from our Western Santa Claus.

In Japan, Santa Claus is known to be a kind figure who brings gifts to children. The unique aspect? It’s believed that he might have eyes on the back of his head! Japanese children are told that this way, Santa can always see if they are behaving themselves. Well, that’s one way to ensure good behavior!

Children write letters to Santa just like in the West, but they might be left under their pillows instead of sending them off into the mail. It’s believed that Santa reads the letters while children are sleeping and leaves presents in their place. How magical is that!

The magic of Santa transcends borders, from the North Pole to our homes at the House of Kringle and to Japan!

Japanese Christmas Traditions

When it comes to celebrating Christmas, Japan has its unique spin. You won’t find many traditional Christmas dinners with turkey and stuffing here, but you’ll find plenty of joy, love, and delectable treats!

One of the most popular traditions in Japan is the Christmas Cake. But it’s not your typical fruitcake! In Japan, the favored Christmas dessert is a strawberry shortcake – a light, fluffy sponge cake, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. It’s a delightful, festive dessert that has become synonymous with Christmas celebrations in Japan.

Christmas Cake Japan Strawberry Shortcake
Christmas Cake Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

Then there’s the Christmas dinner – or should we say, Christmas…fried chicken? The Japanese tradition of having fried chicken, particularly from KFC, on Christmas day has grown incredibly popular. This phenomenon began with a successful KFC marketing campaign in the 1970s, and it’s stuck around since then!

Japan Christmas Kfc
No Japanese Christmas Eve is complete without dinner from KFC Japan

A Unique Japanese Christmas Delight: Matcha Green Tea Cookies

From fried chicken to cookies – the Japanese certainly know how to make Christmas delicious! Sharing homemade cookies is another lovely tradition in Japan. But why not add Japanese flair to your cookie exchange this year?

At the House of Kringle, we love incorporating international traditions into our own celebrations. And we have the perfect recipe to help you do the same: our Japanese Matcha Green Tea Cookies.

These cookies blend the traditional flavor of matcha – a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea – with classic cookie ingredients. The result? A cookie that is subtly sweet, delightfully earthy, and perfect for sharing during the holiday season.

You can find the recipe on our blog here. Try them out, and let’s bring some Japanese Christmas traditions into our homes!

Gift-Giving and the Art of Wrapping in Japan

Just like in many other cultures around the world, gift-giving is an integral part of the Christmas celebrations in Japan. But there’s a unique twist to this tradition that is inherently Japanese – the beautiful art of wrapping, known as “Tsutsumi.”

In Japan, how a gift is wrapped and presented is just as important as the gift itself. This art form often involves using traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, known as “Furoshiki,” creating a sustainable and incredibly aesthetic way of giving gifts. Perfect for keeping the earth and its inhabitants happy!

At House of Kringle, we appreciate this tradition’s care and attention to detail. When you present your loved ones with our homemade Japanese Matcha Green Tea Cookies, why not try Tsutsumi? The beautiful wrapping will not only show your loved ones how much you care, but it’ll also provide an authentic Japanese touch to your Christmas celebrations.

Christmas Illuminations in Japan

No Christmas celebration is complete without lights; in Japan, they go all out with this tradition. The Christmas light displays, or “illuminations” as they’re known in Japan, are indeed something to behold. Streets, parks, and buildings across the country are adorned with millions of colorful lights, creating a mesmerizing winter wonderland.

These illuminations attract locals and tourists alike, and some displays are so popular that they run from November until February!

Wrapping It Up

As we journey through Christmas around the world, it’s truly enchanting to see how each culture adds its own flavor to this magical holiday. Christmas in Japan may not involve caroling or a big turkey dinner, but it’s filled with joy, love, delicious food, and some truly awe-inspiring illuminations.

So, why not bring a slice of Japanese Christmas into your home this year? From indulging in a festive strawberry shortcake or fried chicken dinner to baking our delightful Japanese Matcha Green Tea Cookies, there are many ways to incorporate Japanese traditions into your celebrations. After all, the true spirit of Christmas is all about sharing love and joy, no matter how or where we celebrate.

Happy Holidays from all of us at the House of Kringle!