Visit my eBay Store to find unique Japanese stuff!

How Do They Say MERRY CHRISTMAS in Japan? A Native Japanese Answers You!

how to say merry christmas in japaneseJapanese Life & Travel

How Do You Say Merry Christmas in Japanese?

Hi, it’s Junko from Japan! Christmas is one of the biggest annual events in Japan. English phrases such as Merry Christmas and Santa Claus are very common phrases in Japan, too. They’re pronounced as we hear them. I mean, Merry Christmas says MERII KURISUMASU, and Santa Claus becomes SANTA CROSU. Since we don’t have an R sound in the Japanese language, I think the actual pronunciation sound more like MELI KULISUMASU and SANTA KULOSU for English native speakers.

The English phrases and foreign words are all written in the Katakana script. Here are Katakana’s writings for MERII KURISUMASU and SANTA KUROSU in Japanese.

merii kurisumasu and santa kurosu written in katakana scripts

What Are the Christmas Traditions in Japan?

For Japanese people, Christmas Eve is the day when we spend time with our important people such as lovers or family members. We decorate Christmas trees and have dinner together.

For Japanese Children and Families

Japanese children are waiting for Santa Clause!

For Japanese children, Christmas Eve is a special day when Santa Clause comes and gives presents. We see many TV commercials and ads when Christmas is coming, and children choose their favorite toys and Ask Santa Clause for them. I often see parents scold a little kid saying “if you’re a bad boy, Santa Clause doesn’t come!” at toy shops in shopping malls. Putting the presents beside the pillows is a typical manner among Japanese Santa Clauses 🙂

For Japanese Couples in Younger Generation

For young couples, Christmas Eve is the most romantic day of the year. It’s not too much to say that Christmas Eve is the day for lovers. Japanese couples book a special dinner and exchange Christmas gifts with each other. It may sound funny, but it’s regarded as miserable and sad that you don’t have any plans to do on Eve. So younger people are eager to make someone steady until the Christmas season.

We even have a slang KURIBOCCHI. KURI comes from Christmas, and BOCCHI is a Japanese slang meaning “alone” or “have no friends.” KURIBOCCHI is a word for making fun of someone who doesn’t have a steady lover on Christmas days.

Do They Do Christmas Decorations?

Yes! We display Christmas trees at home. Also, shopping malls, supermarkets, and even convenience stores have Christmas decorations during the Christmas season. You can see Christmas lights and trees anywhere and everywhere all over Japan.

Do They Send Christmas Cards?

Yes and no. It’s not a common tradition to send greeting cards during the Christmas season. We have the tradition to send postcards called NENGAJO to celebrate the happy new year, and the new year cards would be prioritized over the Christmas cards for many people.

What’s the Typical Christmas Dinner?

We cook Western-style dishes for Christmas Eve!

Chicken dishes and Christmas cakes are typical dinners for Japanese Christmas Eve. A roasted chicken and a strawberry shortcake (strawberry sponge cake) are the most popular. Kentucky Fried Chicken also sells the most in the year!

Do They Have Christmas Songs?

Yes! Many English Christmas songs are translated into Japanese and we learn them at nursery schools and kindergarten. Pop songs by Japanese artists are also popular. Here’s the most common Christmas song by Yamashita Tatsuro. The song was first released in 1983, but it’s still a super popular Christmas song and is played every year.

Is Christmas a Holiday Season in Japan?

No. Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan. Both December 24th and 25th are business days. But for many people, it’s like happy holidays. So many people try to finish their work early and spend time with their families.

When Does the Christmas Season start?

It starts just after Halloween ends and lasts till December 25th. During this term, stores and streets in Japanese towns are decorated with illuminations and Christmas decorations. But once December 25th is over, they instantly change the decorations from Christmas versions to the new year celebrations version. For store staff, this end of the year is the busiest time of year. Since the new year decoration is done Japanese traditional way while the Christmas one is copying Western cultures, the entire air of towns completely changes.

Does Christmas Have Religious Meaning in Japanese Culture?

Honestly, no. Christmas is a fun winter festival for most Japanese. We don’t care about its religious meanings though we know it’s based on Christian teaching, and December 25th is the birthday of Jesus Christus. As you know, Japan is a Shinto nation that believes Japanese Shinto religion. However, it’s natural for most Japanese people to believe in two religions: Shinto and Buddhism. Both religions are naturally mixed into our daily life and annual events, we don’t pay attention to which is which.

In a way, Japanese people deeply believe their religions. But in other ways, I think the Japanese are tolerant and open-minded to western cultures and religions. I’m not sure why but one reason may be that we originally have more than 8 million gods in Shinto teachings. It’s not hard for us to accept that each person has their own local gods or believes in many gods at the same time.

A good example is Valentine’s day. Valentine’s day was introduced in Japan around the 1950s by some commercial companies that sell chocolate. Now it’s the biggest annual event in February in which we present sweet chocolate to familiar people. The original religious meaning has been lost and Valentine’s day has become a fun event just like Christmas.

Fun Fact: When Did Christmas Come to Japan?

It’s said the word and concept of Christmas were brought into Japan first in the 16th century by missionary priests. But Japanese governors at that time denied accepting Christianism and oppressed it. So Christmas didn’t become known to the public this time. In the Meiji era in Japan, an imported food supermarket in Ginza introduced Christmas in Tokyo. Also, a pastry shop named Fujiya started to sell the first Japanese Christmas cakes in Meiji 43 (1910). Some shops and restaurants followed them but the flow was shut due to World War II.

After World War II, Christmas was getting common among the public people through the commercial activities of pastry shops and companies. That’s why Japanese Christmas is more like a promotional event or festival by commercial companies, rather than a religious celebration. At least, it’s no doubt that Christmas is already deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

For your information, the pastry shop Fujiya which sold the first Christmas cakes in Japan still exists and sells Christmas cakes all over Japan. The foundation of Fujiya met a strawberry shortcake when he visited the United States, and he arranged it into a sponge cake with strawberry decoration. It’s the origin of Japanese Christmas cakes!

If you have any questions about Japanese Christmas, please let me know via comment and I’ll update the post!

How Did You Like It?