Happy New Ye- …wait, it’s the 15th already?! I’m shocked that my winter vacation is already over – it doesn’t feel like January at all!
Being a teacher in Japan has its benefits, such as dishing out end-of-year test scores and feeding off the tears or happiness of the students when they look at their final grades. But it also has its disadvantages, like two-day long vacations.
Despite students getting a month off in winter, teachers must still come to work as Japan doesn’t really celebrate Christmas the way Westerners do.
Then again, it’s so hard to say Japan doesn’t celebrate Christmas with all the hype it gets.
From Halloween onwards, shops will wrap presents for you free of charge, you can place orders for incredibly delicious Christmas cakes almost everywhere, department stores are laden with decorations and tiny trees, and supermarkets continuously play catchy Christmas tunes for weeks on end.
The 23rd of December is a national holiday, and the Emperor’s birthday. On December 24th, some families will eat cake for dessert, or place orders for special Christmas Chicken Dinners, courtesy of the monopolizing KFC chain. Couples get together on Christmas Eve with intimate implications, and singles seek out a romantic miracle.
Yet on the 25th, the sun rises and everything is forgotten. Businessmen still go to work. Stores will still be open from 9 am until 9 pm, and despite all the hype Christmas gets, nothing actually happens. There’s just no spark or spirit, no good TV shows, no family gatherings or giant parties, no Christmas cards; it’s just another normal day. In fact, Christmas in Japan is more akin to Valentine’s Day in the West; A day for couples and spreading love.
After nearly two months of hype, everything Christmas related is gone by Boxing Day, replaced with New Year trinkets and decorations in time for December 31st, which is one of Japan’s biggest holidays. Fun fact, most young Japanese females are considered “Christmas Cakes”, with the implication that if they are not married by the age of 25, they should be “thrown out” due to them being “out of date”. How mean!
Japan’s New Year celebrations, on the other hand, are huge. The giving and receiving of special, hand-drawn postcards, shrine visits, family gatherings, and loads of delicious food that can be eaten while watching great, 24-7 TV variety shows puts Christmas to shame. In comparison to New Years, Christmas feels like a completely hollow, empty day.
This is why I feel the holidays have come and gone in the blink of an eye. It feels like Christmas is just around the corner, when it’s been over for almost a month!
Today the students came back to school and we had our opening ceremony in the gymnasium when it suddenly struck me; there’s only a month and a half left before the graduation ceremony. Once that’s over, a new batch of first years will enter my life and the school year will start from scratch again. I barely know all the names of my students from last March!
Time really needs to slow down!
Despite having to drag myself out of bed every day to go to work over the festive period, I spent most of my evenings drawing the latest Crazy Sunshine Chronicle, giving me a two-week long buffer. I also managed to complete Halo 4 on Legendary solo and play some Saints Row the Third with one of my friends. I modelled my SR3 character to look just like my girlfriend, and watching her streak around naked while curb stomping cops to the ground is incredibly hilarious.
I hope everyone has a warm, illness-free winter. Thanks for reading!
Kadomatsu Display Image courtesy of Square Enix Ltd.