Living in Japan, you soon notice that Japanese Christmas differs from its Western equivalent. From eating Christmas cakes that are made with whipped cream and strawberries galore to enjoying a romantic date instead of visiting your family at Yule time, Christmas in Japan remains fascinatingly different.
Nowhere is this difference clearer than in how Christmas has been incorporated into the Japanese language. As Japanese Christmas is unique, it has created new words associated with the season that illustrate how the holiday has become part of the culture.
1. Wine for the whole family
When you raise a toast this Christmas season, those driving may be offered a drink that looks like champagne but feels slightly off. This drink is actually a particularly Japanese beverage called shanmeri (シャンメリ), often written “chanmery” in English).
A mashup of the words “champagne” (shanpan, シャンパン) and “merry” from “merry Christmas” (meri kurisumasu, メリー クリスマス), the drink promises to make you cheerful. However, despite containing the word for champagne, it is actually a non-alcoholic, easy-to-drink version of champagne aimed at children and teetotal adults.
It even makes a distinctive pop sound similar to champagne when the cork is popped to really get into the festive spirit.
2. Cake for one
Cakes are meant to be shared, right? Well, ohitorisama kurisumasu keki is a respectful way to say “cakes for oneself,” designed to be enjoyed without anyone else there.
While having a delicious cake all to yourself sounds awesome, this can take on a different connotation around Christmas. Eating a cake by yourself might be considered a bit lonely. Recently, things have started to change. Many companies offer a range of these cakes tailored to any saccharine-packed needs their customers may have.
3. Alone on Christmas
A mix of the word kurisumasu and hitori bocchi (alone), kuri-bocchi (クリぼっち) is used to describe someone alone at Christmas, but not in an empowering way, but rather in a sad way.
Many people visiting Japan for the first time are surprised to discover that Christmas is more about dating than family in Japan. With a lot of pressure on singletons to find the one at Christmas, a new word arose, kuri-bocchi, someone who is single at Christmas but unhappy at the fact.
As more young people find that being single is nothing to fear, they are trying to reclaim the phrase, with messages like “kuri botchi wa daijobu” (being alone at Christmas is fine) trending on social media around the holiday season.
4. Pair gifts
Some couples are so similar that their tastes are almost identical. When you have such a perfectly matched couple, you might be tempted to guess that what is good for one half of a couple would also be equally suitable for the other half. In these situations, you may want to cut your shopping in half by buying a peya gifuto, or pair gift.
This includes things like matching cups, matching clothes, matching jewelry and everything else that says that these two are one soul in two bodies. It can also be a popular gift from one side of the couple to say that the two of you will be together for a long time.
5. A Christmas Eve lover
With so much emphasis on dating and love around Christmas, the people who are single and content may feel a little left out. After all, everyone around you canceling plans because they have dates on Christmas Eve can make anyone feel lonely. Enter the tempting man or enticing lady of your dreams, the kurisumasu ibu koibito (Christmas Eve lover).
However, don’t expect much romance. The term usually doesn’t include the two of you spending time together on Christmas. But everything else you can do with a girlfriend or boyfriend most certainly is!
Do you have any memories of any of these? Share them in the comments.