Saturday, December 25, 2010


In Japan, December 25 is pretty much like February 26: a date of no particular importance to everyone in the world at the same time. Everybody in Japan goes to work and so forth; same as always, in the office where there is no eggnog. Of course just about everybody in the country knows that the 25th is "Christmas," that western religious holiday that's supergreat for department stores, parties and gift giving; for bakeries too, with all the Christmas cakes.

Which can't really be all that humbuggy, can it, but there's none of what I remember from my childhood as "Christmas spirit," the uplift of Christmas carols, ribbon candy, holiday spices, evergreen scents, jingling bells, Santas everywhere that look like Santa-- I saw a skinny Santa on a motorbike the other day, heading for work somewhere north of here, hat on his helmet, obeying the law-- had sneakers on too, no respect for a tradition from elsewhere-- as is naturally pretty much the case for alien traditions everywhere in the world.

Fact is, there aren't any religious holidays in Japan; maybe the closest is the birthday of the current Emperor, whose father used to be a god; it falls tantalizingly on December 23 and is, yes, a holiday, but everybody's back in the office on the 25th, a date that tends to lose importance after you've been here a few years, when like everybody else you're looking forward to the awesome New Year holidays, one of the two major chunks of time off in this country, that if played right can be stretched to last a week or more.

The Japanese don't have national holidays like Columbus Day, Christmas, Independence Day, Martin Luther King Day or Washington's birthday, either, having had no discoverers, saviors, founders, profound activists or iconic politicians. They tend to have more practical holidays, like Respect-for-the-Aged Day, Greenery Day, Coming-of-Age Day, Vernal Equinox Day, Children's Day, Marine Day (for the oceans), Health and Sports Day, Autumnal Equinox Day, Culture Day and such like, with a couple of Emperor's birthdays thrown in, one to honor the era of the previous emperor and the one aforementioned for the current Emperor. Apart from the imperial aspects, I think it's a good combination for national focus on worthy subjects.

Many of these holidays however are shifted to the nearest Monday, much to my lament-- not because of the base falsehood that I enjoy being in offices on Mondays, or even because in fact I abhor spending Mondays (and most other days) in offices, but because I do NOT work on Mondays anyway, and so cannot get them off. I know that sounds paradoxically Scroogy, when in fact I'm perceptibly sweet not very much of the time, but there's just no Christmas spirit around here, except for some jingly, snowy, evergreen memories...

And no, I didn't say Humbug.


Rob said...

February 26 of no particular importance?! That's the birth date of two very outstanding men: Johnny Cash and me! It should be a national holiday. Heck, it should be a global holiday! ;)

Robert Brady said...

Sorry, Rob; I meant to write Feb 25, of course.

Rob said...

Feb. 25 was still a stellar day, with both George Harrison and Tea Leone born that day. Every day is special in some way.

Robert Brady said...

December 25 is pretty much in a class of its own, is the obscure point I was trying to get at. Made another change to really nail it down to the nanolevel, as needed.

Chancy said...

"Respect-for-the-Aged Day"

I'll drink to that with a glass of eggnog.

Here in the USA we are all out of "Respect-for-the-Aged"

no day, week, month or year. :(

Victor said...

I make my own egg nog here, but it's not quite the same when no one else has any and you can't but it in the stores, is it?