The international dormitory I am staying in for the year recently hosted its own Christmas party for its residents. The festivities included a pizza party, a ceremony in the church adjoined to our residence hall, followed by some musical performances and a play specially prepared by a group of Japanese residents for the occasion.
The purpose of Christmas in Japan is a stark, contrast to its meaning back home in America. Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States, whereas in Japan it is estimated that only ONE percent of the entire population is Christian. This becomes evident in the differences of how this holiday is viewed and celebrated by the Japanese versus Americans. In America, Christmas is seen as a family holiday, while New Year’s is when all moral principles are abandoned for the night before the ball drops in Times Square. Japan, on the other hand, sees Christmas as a largely romantic holiday, meant to be spent with your significant other (if you have one, that is–so if you’re single you just become even more aware of how alone you are during the holiday season), and New Year’s is spent with one’s family. Christmas time in Japan consists of Christmas cakes, Kentucky Fried Chicken (seriously), (not so) German-style Christmas markets, and cutesy Santa and reindeer paraphernalia to remind you that commercialism rules the world.
via The Sun
And America? We too are slaves to commercialism, with our limited holiday special deals, ABC Family Christmas movie marathons and the yearly triumph of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” being played by the hour on the radio. And Jesus. Lots of Jesus. Nativity scenes are assembled on the front lawns of people’s homes, as a reminder of the origins of this holiday, and on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day many families attend church together.
Which brings us back to the Christmas party, in which I experienced one of the greatest—if not the greatest Christmas performance of all time. I was expecting the classic nativity story—what I got was better than anything I could have ever asked for. The plot focused on the kidnapping of Santa Claus by a gang of demons, and the only person who could save him was a group of awkward teenagers assisted by Jesus Christ himself, played by one of the residents wrapped in a bed sheet and holding a can of Guinness beer. At one point, God calls Jesus on his cell phone, and Jesus answers, “Hello?” He drawls. “They ran out of wine in heaven? No problem, let me just get some water… because-because I can turn water into wine, you know.” In another scene, one of the awkward teenagers saves the rest by seducing the demon with a cutout of Ariana Grande’s face over her own. Santa’s assistant, a sexy reindeer, eventually reveals herself as the kidnapper, and my jaw dropped as the teenagers fake bludgeoned her to death with a giant sword. “Is–Is that the end?” I whisper to my neighbor, as they all lined up on stage for a group bow. “What did I just watch?”
Had this play been performed in America, the backlash would have been instant–and immense. I mean, alcoholic Jesus? The devil? Sexy reindeer? All in the same play? But my shock subsided quickly; as I watched the actors line up on stage and take their bows, with wide (and some nervous) smiles across their faces, I realized how much fun it must have been to create that play, and its intentions were pure. For Japan, Christmas is about having fun with your friends, family, and loved ones. For those who are Christian, like myself, of course it is still important to recognize the religious aspects of the holiday, but I am honestly endeared that Japan has embraced Christmas with so much enthusiasm. It is actually a bit refreshing to spend the holidays outside of America for once, as I get to experience what Christmas time means to another country on the other side of the world.
With that said, Her Campus Waseda and I wish you all a happy holidays! I have to go now– my Kentucky Fried Chicken Christmas order is waiting for me.