This is a weird time of the year. I mean, I’m an atheist in Japan who celebrates Christmas which is radically different from celebrating it in the US. It was more of an endurance than celebration. And not because of church, I quite like Christmas carols. I’m not the sort of “bah-humbug” atheist many religious folk imagine.

Christmas lights? Love them.
Christmas songs? Adore them.
Christmas dinner? OMG, fill me up!

No, the part of the holidays I didn’t like in the US was the divisiveness. Even as me, I’d wish people Happy Holidays during the season. Sometimes this earned me a happy “And to you, too!”, but a lot of times it got some pretty negative reactions, from all religious and non-religious people. Not to mention having one parent Baptist and one Catholic… it was a mess, especially with them divorced. No, as a child in the US I pretty much was the “bah-humbug” sort.

Fast forward to Japan. Here, over 90% of the population is not Christian, heck most of them are atheist/Buddhist/Shinto combinations depending on the time of the year (I’m not kidding). But, boy do they love Christmas. It’s more of a lover’s holiday here, think traditional US Valentine’s Day, with New Years being the family holiday.

Instead of Christmas dinner usually we get KFC. Yes, you read that correctly, KFC is a huge Japanese Christmas tradition. As are Christmas cakes, beautiful to look at, disappointing when you eat them (but that’s my dislike for Japanese cake talking… fluffy, whipped cream, flavorless monstrosities that they are. It’s just NOT cake!) And, oh, the illumination shows~ Christmas lights everywhere! Christmas songs playing, but not endlessly. It’s nice.

I mean, husband and I are both atheist, but we have a fiber-optic Christmas tree (be kind to the environment, don’t use live trees. My Phoebe from Friends moment) and stockings I put our names on and swap Christmas presents. Usually in Japan you get A Christmas present, but I like giving presents, plural. So, that’s the only Japanese thing about Christmas I changed. Husband has adapted to giving and receiving many presents beautifully, though we do put a price limit on presents.

Then on New Years we visit a shrine with his parents, burn last year’s fortunes, draw new ones, and hope the gods bless us (see, religious one day a year).

No matter what your religious affiliation is though I hope you have a lovely winter, and I hope it brings you some happiness in whatever form that may be. It’s a dark time for a lot of people. I used to be one of those people. So, if you know someone all by their lonesome, reach out and invite them over for dinner. We don’t have to share religions to share kindness.

(I am done being a mushy sap.)

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