A few nights ago while watching an old VHS copy of Santa Claus is Coming to Town I began to wonder about this whole Christmas thing. The legend of Santa Claus, according to this stop-action, puppet laden, mind-bending slice of classic holiday TV programming, is a bit dodgy in parts and down-right unsettling as a whole (and hilarious when paired with the right kind of holiday spirits). How on earth did a story like this, the story of Santa Claus, ever so increase in popularity as to reach the mutated, lofty, legendary status it entertains today? It boggles the mind! But then Christmas is just plain weird and, ultimately, up for interpretation and reinterpretation given the varied spiritual, social, economic, geographic and educational contexts that embrace it. That said, I'd like to explore Christmas the way the Japanese do it, as I believe it is a phenomenon that most Americans know little of unless you've had the pleasure of spending Christmas (or the New Year's festivities for the matter) in the biggest little archipelago on the Pacific Rim.
Recently I asked one of my good buddies, an ex-pat who lives and works in Japan, if he'd be coming back to the good ol' U. S. of A. come Christmas. Sadly he won't be, but he assured me that his absence wouldn't hinder his warm wishes and memories of spending the holidays stateside with friends (and family too I suppose). One thing that he disclosed that has been sticking in my head is, "I have to fend off the almost daily, 'What's Christmas really like in the States?' question." What I'd give to know how he chooses to answer this question; "Oh it's like a weeks-long shopping fiasco that claims the sanity and lives of the over-worked and underpaid temporary workers of my country," I imagine him explaining to a wide eyed and wistful looking クリスマス enthusiast before losing their interest by then expounding upon the glory of salt-cured ham, home-made egg nog and football. I know my friends in Japan are missing out on some of the traditions and seasonal cheer they enjoyed growing up with, but if you ask me, they've got plenty to be merry about being so far away for the holidays.