A curious thing happened to me on my way to work last night.
I was walking through the Dotonbori when out of the blue I hear Mariah Carey singing about all she wants for Christmas blaring from a shop window. It actually made me jump, and I suddenly realised it was Christmas Eve.
I was a little incredulous that it had totally slipped my mind because Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year - for me, it is associated with hot weather, holidays, the beach, bbqs, drinking champagne, seeing my friends and New Year celebrations to top it all off. That and the fact that up until 4 days ago, I had been living with a Christmas Tree the size of a Californian Redwood, traipsing through a city that had Bing Crosby singing about White Christmases on every street corner (in itself ironic as the temperature was a hot and sweaty 35 degrees), watching my sister wrap presents for the family and then watching my nephews tear them open minutes later as the suspense became to much for them to bear (they are only 3 and 5), and consuming an abundance of alcohol to the merry clinks of Christmas.
In only 4 days of being back in Osaka, I managed to forget the impending occasion in it's entirety. With the majority of Japanese following Buddhism, while Christmas is certainly acknowledged, it is basically business as usual - and what big business it is.
Therefore, most of my students or Japanese friends do not celebrate Christmas, yet aspects of this Christian celebration are creeping into their lives much like the way my toy Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer noisely struts along the floor singing a medley of Christmas tunes. That is, whatever marketed, gimmicky, iconised image of Christmas you can conjure up in your imagination is what Christmas is to most people here.
From casual gift giving amongst families to 3 metre tall statues of Buddhas being fitted with their very own Santa hats, from shopping til you drop to drinking til you pass out, the Japanese have whole heartedly embraced this festive season minus the religious propaganda - much like the way most of us celebrate it back home anyway!
So, I got to work and throughout the night thought about my family and our very special Christmas Eve tradition, influenced by my German heritage - eating turkey, ham, salads, and my Oma's special black forest cherry cake, drinking champers and gin, followed by opening our presents under the Christmas tree, while we sing bits and pieces of various Christmas Carols, topped off by more drinking and jumping in the pool (it is summer afterall).
You could say I was a little bit homesick. So when my boss asked me to sing a song for everyone as the bar was closing, I couldn't go past 'Silent Night'.