Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Time in Japan

The Christmas Season is here and it's here in a big way! Now, since it's December 1st, I finally feel like it indeed isn't too early and I can rightfully get in the festive spirit. Today is December 1st and I finally feel that I can hold my head up high and rightfully get in the festive mood. I love this time of year. I love the Christmas season. So many wonderful memories of my childhood come flooding past me and I feel like a happy child again. Apparently everyone else around me though has felt the same way, but they didn't wait until December 1st. In the city I live in, Kobe, the Christmas "spirit" was turned on in full force the day following Halloween. Actually withing seconds of Halloween being deemed "over" by retailers.

Now, what sort of freaked me out recently has been the bombardment of all things "Christmasy." Everywhere I go, I hear Christmas carols being blared over speakers. Illuminated trees are everywhere as are Santas and reindeer. It's Christmas hardcore and I'm in Japan. that's what I find so trippy...I'm in Japan. The fact that I'm in Japan itself isn't trippy, it's the fact that the Japanese do Christmas in such a HUGE way.

Growing up, the Christmas season was not just a time to look forward to gifts and great food, but also a time to spend "a lot of time" in church. Every year, we good Catholics did the "overtime" church thing. For me, there was a larger reason for celebrating the season.

Now, when I first started to see the Christmas season celebrated so much in Japan, I was a little pissed. How can this Christian holiday be hijacked? It's not right! It's not fair! Then I thought about it some more and realized, it's not really a bad thing at all. Not completely anyway.

Of course, pretty much the only Christians kicking about Japan who will be in church celebrating the birth of Christ and whatnot probably all have foreign passports, but that's alright. People will of course say that Christmas in japan is a purely commercial event, but isn't that the case in Canada and America now? It may not be a complete commercial event, but it's pretty close! Every year in Canada, the attendance numbers in churches plummet and less people seem to practice their faith. Yet, I'm sure most of these folks not attending church have Christmas trees in their living rooms, exchange gifts, dink eggnog and get pissed over the Holidays.

So, I suppose I have no reason to be upset about a non-Christan nation celebrating Christmas. The Japanese have embraced the gift giving aspect of the season and look at it as a time to have fun with family and friends. I think those are great reasons to celebrate any festival. Is it all commercial? Pretty much, but isn't it the same way in Canada for most people?

So, here I am. I'm in Kobe for my first Christmas in Japan. As a very wise Japanese person said to me, "Kevin, Japanese people love festivals." That's why they celebrate this one as well! So, when I celebrate Xmas here in Japan; it's going to be nice to walk around downtown Kobe and hear Christmas carols, see lights and feel the Xmas vibe. The only difference between this year and last will be the fact that it's a lot warmer here than in Ottawa!

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