[Guest Post – This article was first published in December 2020 and has been republished to introduce Christmas traditions around the world.]
Have you had the experience to feel how Christmas traditions around the world?
I was born and raised in France; this is where I spent my entire childhood. My dad is French, but my mum is Japanese, she spent her entire childhood in Japan.
I may have subconsciously reproduced the same pattern as I moved to another country myself in my adulthood. I now live in London and despite the geographic proximity with my native country, it is fair to say the culture feels quite different!
This is why I’m going to talk about how Christmas traditions around the world differ between France, Japan, and England from my experience.
Celebrating Christmas in France
My dad is an only child and my mum’s family stayed in Japan when she moved to France. As a result, I’ve never had big Christmas parties with the multitude of cousins most people seem to have (or is that what the movies make us want to believe?). When I was a kid, we used to go visit my grandparents who lived several hours away from us.
They were deeply religious, so we often went to the Catholic Church altogether. But things changed a little when my grandparents passed away, I remember spending most Christmases only the 4 of us with my parents and my little sister. A part of me was happy to have a quiet dinner in front of the TV, but at the same time I wondered what it was like to live the excitement of a messy house with kids running around, an extended family paying you their annual visit, more people would mean more gifts!
In France, people are very private on that special day and keep it to themselves. It is a time to appreciate family time with loads of food, that we then digest in front of the same Christmas movies every year. In my family, we were always having seafood for Christmas dinner: crab, shrimps, oysters.
Celebrating Christmas in Japan
I have never celebrated Christmas in Japan myself, but I was always intrigued by how they celebrated this Christian event over there. I asked my mum what it was like when she grew up in Japan and she said that in her childhood, her dad used to bring the family to a posh restaurant each year.
In the 1960s, it was the only way to see Santa. It took time for Christmas to become a thing all over the country, but nowadays they decorate the streets and shops everywhere! Globalization contributed to it I suppose, just like Halloween (even if it’s still way bigger in the States).
In Japan, they don’t exchange gifts for Christmas but they do enjoy the festive spirit. They buy a special cake to celebrate the occasion on the day. Japanese desserts are usually not very sweet, so this is a way to make it more special!
Celebrating Christmas in England
I have lived in London since 2012 but I’ve only started to see how British were spending their Christmas day over the past few years. During the first years, I used to take the train back to Paris to be with family as it was inconceivable not to (or you would fail as a good family member!).
It was not a nice journey back home as many French ex-pats were doing the exact same thing and the train was overcrowded. Several years later, I decided to stay in London during Christmas and go back to France while it was quieter.
I remember being shocked about the apocalyptic atmosphere in London’s streets on the 25th of December. No one to be seen, every single business closed. Clearly, they take this day a lot more seriously than in France where you can still go to the market in the morning if you wish.
In England, not only Christmas day but the following day (Boxing day) are bank holidays, no one is usually working during these two days. Regarding the food, it’s all about turkey with Brussels sprouts, mince pies, and Christmas pudding (I personally don’t really enjoy any of these traditional foods).
It’s not uncommon here to invite friends for Christmas if they’re by themselves, even last minute. Christmas spirit means sharing is caring! And there is always way too much food anyway.
I have to confess I’m not a massive fan of Christmas day itself (don’t call me a grinch!), but I love the build-up period during winter!
I find it fascinating that almost the whole world is celebrating it with the aim to bring happiness and joy. On top of being a great way to help small businesses and boost the economy, Christmas also helps to bring families together and we all desperately need it this year.
Wherever you are in the world, I hope you all spend a safe and very merry Christmas!
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Florence is the big girl behind the blog “A Big Girl in a Big City”. She likes writing about various topics related to self-improvement and for her travelling is key to personal development. If you would like to read more topics such as travel, environment, relationships, mental health or wellbeing, subscribe to the newsletter or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.