Christmas in Japan certainly has been interesting. I'd assumed that it would be sort of a non-event, since very little of the population here is Christian and people don't really get off work for Christmas. I was only partially right -- people definitely celebrate Christmas, but it's not a religious or family-centered holiday here the way that it is in the West. Instead, the big family holiday is New Year's (they call it sho-gatsu), and Christmas functions roughly like New Year's Eve does in the US -- people go out on dates and party with their friends. At the same time, though, people are a lot more willing to use explicitly religious music in public Christmas light displays than in the U.S. and that sort of thing, because Christmas is a foreign holiday and people just find it all kind of cool, without taking it as seriously. Definitely no one says "Happy Holidays"; it's all about "Merry Christmas" (or on occasion "Merry Happy Christmas" or some other variation). Think of how excited they'll be when they find out about Hanukkah and have *two* exotic foreign holidays in one month.
On Christmas Eve we went to a big Christmas light display in Osaka that was pretty impressive. However, the ones in Kobe were much better.
This is a picture from the hand bell concert outside of one of the department stores in Sannomiya. We got all our shopping done in one day and then got to hear a free concert.
Before we went to the Osaka Lights we decided on Mexican food for our Christmas eve meal. We just want to show you all that it is possible to find good Mexican in Japan. There was even live music. At one point I said to Craig "If you told me I'd be spending Christmas Eve in Osaka Japan eating Mexican food while listening to a Japanese guy sing Christmas carols in English with a heavy accent, I'd never believe you."
And here are highlights from the lights. The display was on an island in the middle of the river that runs through the city. It begins with a lighted walk way, and then displays on park grounds. There was the usual Santa Claus, reindeer, and trees decorated with lights, but they also included dolphins, Pooh-san (Winnie the Pooh), Mickey-san, Minnie-san etc that kids could take their pictures with. There were also decorated boats making circles around the island.