Now that both the Canadian and American Thanksgivings are out of the way, it's time to focus our attention on what's really important: buying shit for Christmas!!! Now I should preface this by reminding you all that I am from the Hanukkah tribe and not the one that also includes Christmas trees (not that there's anything wrong with that). Or "Hanukkah bushes" for that matter, which instead of a thinly-veiled Christmas tree makes me think of what someone might call getting some holiday lovin' from their partner who doesn't believe in waxing. No, we deal strictly with menorahs.
I've participated in a Christmas celebration maybe three times, and this has been on the extremely rare occasion that I was in the US visiting my family in the Christmas tribe. And well, I love them to bits so honestly no complaints there. But the years of being the only Hanukkah girl at school, nay for miles, I have come to reject every aspect of Christmas as something I might possibly engage in. During the years La Familia de Geisha spent in New Zealand, my parents had to go and talk to my brother's teacher when he was 6 and ask her to stop telling the class that the Jews killed Jesus. When I was 7 my teacher sat the class down for me and taught them that they should stop drawing swastikas in the classroom. No, none of this has to do with Christmas and I am not trying to jerk any tears with an oh-poor-me Hanukkah girl act, but growing up in the environment I did, (I think) really made me equate Christmas with the Christian religion, despite that for many, it is a secular holiday. I cannot imagine celebrating it as a secular holiday, which is really the crux of why I think it is so batshit crazy the way Japanese people celebrate Christmas!
Take for example, last week. I was enjoying a pleasant stroll around the Ginza, because really what other kind of stroll is to be had there? and my ears were suddenly assaulted by Christmas music. Granted if I walk into a store I am consciously subjecting myself to hearing whatever they have spinning, but I would like to enjoy my walks outside at this time of year sans Christmas music. I will probably get some flack for this post which is fine, because I have no problem with other people doing Christmas, I just wish it hadn't become this blanket holiday that you would think everyone participated in from looking at the amount of public hooplah that surrounds it.
I think my main problem is that I simply cannot separate Christmas from Christianity and have never been able to understand how my Hindu, Buddhist and Atheist friends do. The beau is not into Christmas and so you would think given that Christmas here is not a national holiday, I would be able to avoid it. Not quite, as many couples with scheduling conflicts do Christmas on the 23rd, which is the ever-so-convenient Emperor's birthday. Nevertheless, in the past couple years we have managed to do OK with a movie and Japanese food, the Japanese- Jewish equivalent of a Jewish Chinese-food-and-movie Christmas.
Christmas is one of the best Western things to hit the retail and food industry in Japan in the last century. Between the two of them, these industries have fashioned a holiday that appeals to the Japanese love of eating, buying exorbitant gifts and factory-standard dates. Check out any magazine on the stands this month and there will be at least a few pages dedicated to romantic hotel packages, restaurants with special Christmas courses, suggested gifts from Louis Vuitton and the requisite fried chicken take-out places. All of this food, shopping and lovin' is fine by me, I just wish it wasn't all in the name of the birth of baby Jesus, granted many Japanese think it is actually Santa's birthday on the 25th. I have rarely tried to articulate this to a Japanese person, for asking them why they are celebrating a Christian holiday is usually met with a short and furious burst of blinks.
Those who do not live in Japan would probably assume that we are fairly isolated from Christmas over here but it's quite the opposite in fact. Every year in Japan too, I deal with my feelings over whether to nod and smile or correct people when they either wish me a Merry Christmas or ask me what I'm doing for Christmas, and these are Japanese people. Even the Kaisha is having a Christmas party that should rightly be named a 1000-person bonenkai, except for the chorus interlude when a group sings some Christmas songs. Yup, they sing their little hearts out to a room full of Japanese people, 2% of which probably know who Jesus is.
There is a fantastic article here written a few years ago about Christmas in Japan that my dad sent me when I was first studying here. I do feel for the foreigners here who can't be with their family back home on Christmas, and I hope that at least the superficial celebrations of it here get them in the Christmas spirit, as I believe they call it, but for me I think it will always be something that makes me flinch. For something that is so often touted and assumed to be a shared cultural holiday, I think it's not shared by as many people as we think.