November 10, 2013

Trick Then St. Nick?

The religious aspects of Christmas are understandably perplexing to a majority of Japanese people given their secular inclination and lack of Christian traditions. Yet the nation has fully embraced the trappings of good old St. Nick, and Christmas is a feast for the eyes and stomach here. Halloween is a different story. 
Sure, people dress up in costumes around the days leading up to October 31. Shopping areas and English language schools are replete with scary-slash-fun images in orange and black. But I am convinced most Japanese folks still do not understand the historical origins of Halloween, and they just enjoy the chance to buy candy and dress up in odd outfits because of costume play’s cultural acceptance here. It is rare to see anyone carving pumpkins or kids going door-to-door to trick or treat. Nobody wants to dole out candy or ask for it—that’s just not customary yet. And that's fair, because a thin understanding of a Western holiday should not prevent people from having fun. Thus, Japan’s version of Halloween is consistent with the nation’s ability to appropriate foreign ideas and tweak them to make it acceptable locally.
What has struck me, though, is the quick turnaround from the Halloween marketing blitz straight into the Christmas marketing carpet bombing. 
One weekend the Rising Daughters were getting pumpkins and spooky pink cats painted and their cheeks at our local shopping mall. Then, the following (first) weekend in November, we were strolling through the same mall being force-fed Jingle Bells by Bing Crosby and visually assaulted by tinsel!
With no American Thanksgiving acting as a commercial/holiday buffer, we launched straight into Christmas.
As William Shatner said: “I can’t get behind that.” But I am becoming a Rising Curmudgeon™.


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