The Unexpected Competitiveness of Christmas in Japan

Christmas in the Philippines can be a game of one-upmanship, as families attempt to create bigger and more elaborate Christmas spreads versus their next-door neighbors. It’s surprising though that Japan — a predominantly Buddhist and/or Shinto nation, is also highly competitive when it comes to Christmas traditions.

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In Japan, New Years is spent with the family, while Christmas is spent with your significant other. Girls with boyfriends often make a fuss about where their dates will be taking them on Christmas Eve, while girls without boyfriends are making a fuss about confessing to the boys they like on Christmas Eve.

On the other side of the coin, boys with girlfriends are making a fuss about earning enough money to buy the perfect Christmas present, while boys without girlfriends are — well, you pretty much know where this is going.

Both gift recipients are obligated to give presents of equal worth. One rule of thumb the Japanese follow is to identify the department store where the present was purchased based on the gift wrapper, and then purchase a different item from the same store for the original giver. It’s that big of a deal :/

It’s truly unexpected and a bit confusing, but then again the Japanese are masters with taking something they like and then running with it. While it might be a bit disconcerting, especially to someone who was raised Christian or Catholic, in the end it is all about the spirit of giving and being able to value someone above yourself.

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