This will be my 8th Christmas in Japan and it still feels bizarre. Holiday traditions were a much bigger part of my life in Northern Ireland than I realised. I know that things can’t be the same here in Japan but there are still things I miss.
I miss singing carols and Christmas songs. I always went to church over the Christmas holidays and as a child I used to go carol singing. I loved how it felt to be outside singing in the cold and dark on Christmas Eve. Here I still listen to Christmas music but to sing it I go to karaoke. We did that during the week and it would have been more fun if we hadn’t got stressed out by Japanese questions that we couldn’t understand. I still don’t know what the question was but the man behind us in the queue said in English that they wanted to check that I was over 20… I got carded at karaoke!
Food is a really big part of any holiday and I happen to love Christmas food. Japanese food is great but not christmassy at all. I do cook and I can make nearly every Christmas thing I like to eat if only I had the ingredients. None of my recipe books on how to make the perfect Christmas dinner deal with ingredient substitution or problems like baking in a small electric oven. In Japan turkey is an expensive frozen food that you can get from themeatguy or foreign supermarkets. Christmas cake is a white sponge and covered in cream and fresh strawberries and doesn’t contain dried fruit, marzipan, and icing. I did want to bake some cakes that don’t have fruit but there is a butter shortage in Tokyo. It’s not all bad, one of my friends sent me some Dutch Christmas food and I’ve been enjoying eating that in the evenings.
I miss my Christmas Eve party and having friends over to wrap presents. Now most of my Christmas shopping is done online and Amazon wraps my presents for me. I did still wrap quite a few things this year and I brought jumbo rolls back from Northern Ireland to do it. Japanese wrapping paper is beautiful but it tends to be more suited to wrapping books or DVDs than it does bulky PJs or toys in large boxes. I do still have parties at Christmas but they have to take place on the weekends around the holiday and don’t always involve Christmas food.
Some of the changes have nothing to do with living in Japan, just the changing times. In December I saw a copy of the Christmas Radio Times and I was overcome with nostalgia. As a child I loved to read that and the T.V. Times as it told me what films we could watch at Christmas time. Now I am spending time on iTunes downloading the T.V. series that we want to catch up on over the holidays (Dr Who Season 8) and have bought movies on Blu-Ray to watch. Watching T.V. wasn’t even a consideration. I suppose T.V. being in Japanese doesn’t help but browsing T.V. channels is not something I really do.
Even though things are different I still love the holiday season and I’m going to enjoy the Christmas week. And this year, thanks to Marty’s Christmas present, I won’t have to dream of a white Christmas.