Christmas traditions and customs around the world spark curiosity. In 1988, during our first year in Japan, we enjoyed getting to know some traditions that the country, (about one percent Christian) celebrates. In our church, Kanazawa Bunko Baptist Church, we celebrated Advent and the birth of Jesus, but outside the church, we saw a totally different view of the holiday.
- We saw people heading to Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants to order the chicken dinners, and many ordered a “Christmas Cake”, both to be eaten on Christmas Eve.
- As a teacher at a girl’s school, Leslie saw the students preparing for their “date night” on Christmas Eve. No one wanted to be dateless on that special night.
- The stores were all decorated with huge Christmas trees, red and green decorations, Santa, reindeer and fake snow.
- Parents bought a special toy for their young children.
- TV shows portrayed Christmas Eve as a night when miracles will happen.
- Interestingly enough, the day after Christmas, the decorations all came down, and preparations for the New Year holiday began.
Christmas without Christ, but with all the trimmings...different indeed from the celebration we remember. As you read about some of the Japanese traditions, you may want to smile, but amazingly, the very first Christmas came without any of our traditions or trimmings either. The very first Christmas somehow started a frenzy without the power of TV, candy canes, stockings, parties, or advertisements telling us to give and buy. It came without Santa, or “Black Friday.” Even more amazingly, the very first Christmas involved a poor couple, “nobodies” under Roman power, who would lay the most precious gift of all in a manger.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (NIV)