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Essay

Celebrating Christmas

By Anthony Fensom

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’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. (A Visit From St Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore).

Moore’s famous poem, believed written in 1823, helped shape Western concepts about Christmas. As kids know, a jolly, plump man with a white beard known as “Saint Nicholas” or “Santa Claus” visits every home to deliver toys on Christmas Eve, December 24.

In Germany, Christmas Eve is the time when families exchange presents. But in Australia and other English-speaking countries, December 25 is the main event.

Kids wake up on Christmas Day excited by what presents might lie under the Christmas tree. Some even try and stay awake all night, just to catch a glimpse of Santa.

Christmas Day is a public holiday and an event for families, with the exchange of gifts and plenty of food and drink. Even in Australia, which celebrates Christmas during summer, an English-style roast dinner with turkey, potatoes and pudding is popular.

Australia and Britain also have a holiday on December 26, called Boxing Day. It is said to come from a tradition in Britain of servants receiving boxes of gifts from their employers. In Australia, the Boxing Day Test is the annual cricket match we play with a visiting nation such as England.

For many countries, Christmas is the beginning of the holiday period which continues through to the new year. Many offices in my hometown of Brisbane shut before Christmas Eve, not opening again until the first week of January.

In Japan, sadly, there is no public holiday for Christmas. Unlike in the West, where Christmas is a religious festival, Japan’s Christians are in the minority and the Christmas tradition has been imported.

While Christmas decorations are displayed in shopping centres, the event is basically for shoppers. Couples have dates on Christmas Eve, with the family dinner and presents reserved for the new year.

Thanks to some clever marketing, KFC (in Australia, it stopped calling itself Kentucky Fried Chicken years ago) has become associated with Christmas in Japan. KFC outlets dress their Colonel Sanders statues in red-and-white Santa costumes, selling buckets of Christmas chicken instead of turkey.

Yet, as well as food, gifts and holidays, Christmas is also the season of goodwill. For many, giving to others less fortunate shows the real spirit of Christmas. After all, Santa can’t deliver all those presents without a lot of help.

クリスマスを祝う

欧米諸国では国ごとに少しずつ祝い方にバリエーションがあるクリスマス。その宗教的な意味や伝統はあまり知られていない日本でも、プレゼントやケーキ、チキンはこの時期の風物詩となっている。

The Japan Times ST: December 19, 2014

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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