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Is Christmas in Japan religious?


Christmas is a holiday celebrated around the world, but its religious significance varies from country to country. In Japan, where only about 1% of the population is Christian, there are many unique customs and traditions associated with Christmas. This article will explore whether or not Christmas in Japan is religious, and how the holiday is celebrated in this fascinating country.

A Brief History of Christianity in Japan

Christianity was first introduced to Japan by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century. For a time, it gained some popularity among the ruling class, but it was eventually banned under penalty of death by the Tokugawa shogunate in the early 17th century. It wasn’t until the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century that Christianity was allowed to be practiced openly again.

Japanese Snack Box

Secular vs. Religious Celebrations

In modern-day Japan, Christmas is primarily seen as a secular holiday rather than a religious one. Many people view it as a time to exchange gifts, decorate their homes with Christmas lights and trees, and enjoy festive meals with family and friends.

Commercialization of Christmas

The commercialization of Christmas has become a huge industry in Japan. Department stores and shopping malls are decorated with elaborate Christmas displays, and businesses market Christmas-related products such as cakes, fried chicken, and even Kentucky Fried Chicken meals.

KFC’s Role in Japanese Christmas

KFC has become a popular Christmas meal in Japan thanks to a marketing campaign in the 1970s that promoted fried chicken as a “traditional” American Christmas food. Today, KFC outlets take orders months in advance for their special Christmas dinner sets, which include chicken, wine, cake, and other holiday treats.

The Illumination Trend

In recent years, the trend of illuminating public spaces with elaborate light displays has become increasingly popular during the holiday season. From Tokyo’s famous Roppongi Hills to Kobe’s Luminarie Festival, millions of LED lights are used to create stunningly beautiful displays that attract large crowds.

Religious Services and Celebrations

Although Christmas is primarily seen as a secular holiday in Japan, there are still some religious services and celebrations held by Christian churches. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is one such event that is attended by both Christians and non-Christians alike.

The Role of Anime and Manga

The popularity of anime and manga has led to some interesting twists on Christmas traditions in Japan. For example, characters from popular anime series often appear on Christmas-themed merchandise or even on Christmas cakes.

Christmas Eve as a Romantic Holiday

In Japan, Christmas Eve is often seen as a romantic holiday for couples. Restaurants and hotels offer special packages for couples on this day, and many young people go out on dates or exchange gifts with their significant others.

The Significance of New Year’s Day

In Japan, New Year’s Day is considered to be a much more important holiday than Christmas. It is a time for families to gather together, visit temples and shrines for hatsumode (the first shrine visit of the year), and eat traditional foods like mochi.

The Bottom Line: Is Christmas in Japan Religious?

While there are certainly some religious celebrations associated with Christmas in Japan, such as Midnight Mass and church services, for the most part the holiday is seen as a secular one. It’s an opportunity for people to come together with family and friends and enjoy the festive atmosphere that surrounds this time of year.


Christmas may not have the same religious significance in Japan that it does in other countries, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important part of Japanese culture. From the commercialization of the holiday to the unique traditions that have developed over time, there’s no denying that Christmas has left its mark on this fascinating country.

How does Japan worship Christmas?

In Japan, the holiday season is celebrated differently compared to Western countries, such as during Christmas Day where it is a time for friends and couples to gather for parties, make dinner plans and enjoy the festivities.

Do people in Japan go to church on Christmas?

Christmas in Japan is mostly a secular celebration without any religious significance, despite some Christian churches attempting to uphold the religious aspects of the holiday and a few nativity scenes being displayed.

What is Japanese culture at Christmas?

In Japan, Christmas is celebrated as a time of spreading joy rather than being primarily religious. Christmas Eve is typically a more important occasion than Christmas Day and is often viewed as a romantic holiday where couples exchange gifts and spend time together.

Is Christmas secular in Japan?

In Japan, Christmas is not a nationally recognized holiday and its popularity as a cultural event is relatively recent, only dating back a few decades. As a predominantly non-Christian nation, Christmas in Japan is primarily celebrated as a secular holiday.

Do Japanese care about Christmas?

Japan does not consider Christmas to be a national holiday, which means that large crowds and hotels are rare during this time. However, it is a great time to visit and experience the beautiful lights and markets across the country. While Christmas is not viewed as a religious holiday in Japan, it remains an important occasion for families to come together.

Does Japan believe in Santa Claus?

For the most part, Japanese children believe that if they are well-behaved and asleep when Santa Claus arrives, he will bring them gifts. Parents may discover their children’s Christmas wishes through discussions, and some children may also write letters to Santa. This belief is prevalent among Japanese kids.

The Future of Christmas in Japan

As Japan becomes increasingly globalized, it’s possible that Christmas traditions will continue to evolve and change. Some people worry that the holiday may become too commercialized or lose its meaning altogether. However, others believe that the unique Japanese customs and traditions associated with Christmas will continue to thrive.

Cultural Exchange through Christmas

One interesting aspect of Christmas in Japan is the way it has facilitated cultural exchange between Japan and other countries. For example, the popularity of KFC during the holidays has made the fast food chain a household name in Japan, while Japanese anime and manga have introduced new audiences around the world to Japanese culture.


Overall, Christmas in Japan is a fascinating blend of secular and religious customs and traditions. While it may not have the same religious significance as it does in other countries, it still plays an important role in Japanese culture. From KFC meals to illuminations and romantic dates, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during this festive time of year in Japan.

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