I felt it important to post a Christmas message being that this is my first Christmas as a blogger. Living in a foreign country has opened my eyes to the many different ways that people celebrate this most joyous of holidays.
The Japanese (whom less than 1% are Christian) celebrate the season in their own way. Some families give gifts to their children in much the same way that people in other countries typically do. As for the mystery and magic surrounding Santa Claus and some of the more traditional Christmas customs and practices, the Japanese are not quite as well-schooled as those from countries like Australia, Canada, the U.K., the U.S.A. and many areas of Europe and South America, but that’s understandable. How many folks in the above countries are well-versed in traditional Shinto and Buddhist holiday practices? Not the majority, I’m sure.
This year Christmas falls on Sunday, so many people will have the day off from work in Japan due to the simple reason that Sunday is their normal day off rather than because it’s Christmas Day. When Christmas occurs during the regular week, very few people here have the day off and many businesses are open as usual; it’s just another day for the most part.
Just like everywhere else, Christmas in Japan is very commercialized. Some Japanese families will get together on Saturday night, December 24th and celebrate Christmas Eve by eating fried chicken from *KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) or just “Kentucky” as the Japanese call it. I tell my students that we prefer to eat turkey or ham for Christmas in the U.S., particularly on Christmas Day. *Not that I’m intentionally endorsing KFC.
However, there is another (maybe not as well-known) way that Christmas is celebrated in Japan, especially by young Japanese couples. To many of them it is a holiday for lovers; a point that may offend some Christians. I admit that this interpretation raised my eyebrows the first time I heard it. Much of the marketing of the season revolves around this concept. Even the major theme parks use it for promotional reasons, and it works very effectively, too. Every year at this time the parks are overflowing with young couples walking hand in hand through various romantic realms glittering with holiday lights and other illumination. The parks also premiere special live performances and shows centered on the concept of love and commitment; a concept that the theme parks take full advantage of.
Of course, as with all things, people and countries, not all Japanese follow these traditions. Some have their own, some prefer to follow more western holiday customs and I’m sure that some even “Bah, Humbug!” it. Regardless of how people celebrate the season, I respect the fact that not everyone believes in Christmas the same way.
The traditions of Christmas mean a lot to many people. One of the ways people celebrate Christmas is by watching Christmas movies. One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies is Scrooged directed by Richard Donner (not the reindeer, that is if you follow the German rather than Dutch spelling!) known for such famous films as Superman (1978), The Goonies and the Lethal Weapon films. Bill Murray (another celebrity with whom I share my birthday) portrays Frank Cross, a modern embodiment of the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge from the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. The film always helps to get me into the Christmas spirit and the proper mood for the holidays. It’s also useful as a way to keep your spirits up for the season if you’re fortunate enough to be there already!
Bill Murray is typically known for his comedic acting, and Scrooged has plenty of comedy, but Bill’s monologue at the end of the film is some of his best dramatic acting. I still get choked-up watching it. The supporting cast is fantastic in their various roles as the visiting ghosts and as Cross’ subordinates, co-workers, family and friends. So, if you’re looking for a fun and relevant seasonal comedy, mixed with a little drama that has a good and appropriate message for the holidays, then I highly recommend that you put Scrooged on your holiday film list this year.
Thanks for reading and as 2016 comes to a close, I encourage you in these volatile, conflicting, cold, callous and selfish times to consider the real (and original) reason why we celebrate Christmas; the birth and gift to the world of the Lord Jesus Christ.
May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and a safe, healthy and Happy New Year!