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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogHistory of Christmas in Japan: Everything You Need to Know!

History of Christmas in Japan: Everything You Need to Know!

Savannah WalkerSavannah Walker
Published Time
Posted on 
November 09, 2023
Modified Time
Updated last 
November 29, 2023
A Christmas illumination in Fukuoka, Japan.

Buckle up and prepare for a spirited adventure through time as we unwrap the delightful history of Christmas in Japan. This enchanting holiday has taken Japan by storm, infusing its unique blend of tradition, romance, and unexpected delights!

How did Christmas come to Japan?

To explore Christmas history in Japan, we travel back to when this holiday arrived. Unlike the Western world, where it’s a federal holiday, Japan’s fondness for this season started differently.

Our tale begins in the early 16th century when Saint Francis Xavier, a courageous Christian missionary, set foot in Japan and introduced the concept of Christmas to the nation. Initially, Christmas was observed as a religious event, but it gained significant traction in the late 19th century. During this time, Japan started embracing Christmas as a way to celebrate the winter solstice.

Oura Church in Nagasaki, another place that has a history of Christmas in Japan.
Kagoshima and Nagasaki are some places where the Christmas traditional began. Image via Shutterstock

As the years passed, Christmas in Japan underwent a fascinating and joy-infused transformation. It was as if the holiday itself couldn’t resist the infectious spirit of celebration that Japan exudes. What once started as a religious observance soon donned its festive attire, and today, Christmas in Japan is a vibrant and joyous occasion that sets it apart in the most delightful way!

The change reflects Japan’s skill in adding its distinct charm to every celebration, creating a heartwarming and memorable experience. Japanese Christmas isn’t merely copying Western traditions; it’s blending various cultural influences. It mirrors a nation valuing new experiences while holding onto core principles of family, love, and togetherness.

What’s unique about Christmas in Japan?

One of Japan’s most enchanting facets of Christmas is the delightful romantic twist it brings to the season. Unlike many Western countries where the holiday is often family-centric, Japan has injected its dose of whimsy into the festivities, creating a celebration that’s as sweet as a candy cane.

Two women decorating a tree on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve is popular with friends and couples in Japan! Image via Shutterstock

Picture this: Christmas Eve steps into the limelight as the star of romantic celebrations. Couples dress up for the night, exchanging heartfelt gifts under Christmas lights. They dine in cozy restaurants with candlelit warmth. The air is fragrant with love, the holiday atmosphere embracing them. The streets buzz with joy as couples stroll, making cherished memories.

This romantic touch adds an extra layer of delight and heartwarming charm to Japanese Christmas celebrations. It transforms the holiday into a day of love, togetherness, and treasured moments that sparkle like ornaments on a Christmas tree. So, whether it’s a first date or a lifelong commitment, Christmas in Japan is a time when love takes center stage, and the season’s magic makes hearts dance with joy.

No turkey, just chicken!

While a traditional turkey dinner is a staple of Christmas in many Western countries, Japan has carved its delectable path. In this culinary adventure, it’s not the turkey that takes the spotlight; it’s the irresistibly crispy and succulent chicken. And who better to provide this holiday treat than the iconic KFC?

A plate of KFC chicken which is a big part of the history of Christmas in Japan.
People in Japan eat KFC instead of turkey for Christmas. Image via Shutterstock

Yes, you read it right! Many Japanese households opt for a bucket of finger-lickin’ good fried chicken from KFC as their Christmas feast. While you may come across a few rare meat wholesalers selling turkeys, the Colonel’s secret recipe truly steals the show during this festive season, delivering a hearty and mouthwatering holiday meal that’s positively cluck-tastic!

Are you interested in some amazing treats this Christmas? Check out TokyoTreat! TokyoTreat delivers limited-edition Japanese noodles, snacks, drinks, and sweets right to your door so you can enjoy the latest Christmas treats directly from Japan!

What’s the difference between Christmas cake and fruitcake?

In Western countries, the Christmas dessert table often features the notorious fruitcake. However, in Japan, the story takes a delightful twist. The star of the show is the Christmas cake, a world apart from the dense and sometimes divisive fruitcake tradition.

A Christmas cake with strawberries on top.
Christmas cake is strawberry shortcake! Image via Shutterstock

Japanese Christmas cake is a light and fluffy sponge cake adorned with ethereal swirls of whipped cream and adorned with plump and juicy strawberries. This delectable creation is not just a dessert; it’s a work of art that entices the palate and encapsulates the essence of indulgence, making it a truly delightful centerpiece of the Japanese Christmas celebration.

Why Is the history of Christmas in Japan important?

All in all, the history of Christmas in Japan is a heartwarming testament to the power of cultural adaptation and the universal spirit of celebration. It reminds us that the enchantment of the holiday season can manifest in unique ways across the globe. Fusing romantic traditions, KFC feasts, and delicious drinks creates a Christmas experience that is undeniably Japanese and positively brimming with joy.

An illumination in Fukuoka that shows the history of Christmas in Japan.
What do you think of the history of Christmas in Japan? Image via Shutterstock

As we joyfully dive into the heart of this festive season, we’re not just unwrapping the history of Christmas in Japan; we’re unwrapping a worldwide celebration of merriment and togetherness! So, don your holiday spirit and join us on this sleigh ride of cheerful discovery.

We’re eager to hear your thoughts! What’s the sparkly sprinkle on your Christmas cake? Is it the romantic twist, the finger-lickin’ good KFC feasts, or the sweet delight of Christmas cake? It could be the heartwarming transformation of a holiday that knows no boundaries! So, don’t be a silent night; share your thoughts with us! Drop a comment below!

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