Christmas Day for me is usually a busy day. Hell, Christmas week is always a really busy week. I've been lucky enough to have usually about a week off work or school during Christmas/New Year's for the most part. The fact that it's busy doesn't make it stressful...even though there's usually drama of some sort. Here's the thing about Christmas: I am someone who is always surrounded by a lot of people during the holidays. I have a big, tightly-knit family, and some really excellent friends. I am comfortable with solitude, but honestly, I have never been truly alone. Even when I have felt alone in the past, I have never been without people. Even thousands of miles away I don't feel alone. I've made some really great friends here and I have fairly good contact with my people back home thanks to the interwebs. I am thankful for all of my people. I am also thankful for my ability to be a good friend, sister, daughter, and girlfriend to my people.
It's been kind of weird being away for Christmas, because like I said, I'm usually in Kentucky juggling my time with friends and family. But I'm glad to be here, and I'm really glad I get to see my sister in a few days.
You'd think that being in Japan for Christmas might decrease the Christmas spirit somewhat, as this is not a Christian country and they don't even really consider it a holiday here. In fact, most people go to work on Christmas because of that reason. So I was expecting some commercial decorations and maybe a few Christmas songs in the konbini and retail shops, but not much more. On the contrary, Christmas here is actually kind of magical. I think that either Vaughn or Nathalie once said, "If there's one thing Japan knows how to do, it's lights." So totally the truth. The lights here are magnificent. Even in my small town the trees lining the main street are covered in little blue lights. And on the streets of my town, and of course in Tokyo, there are blaring renditions of American Christmas songs...you can't really help but feel like it's atleast a little magical.
Then there's the Christmas parties at my work. For a week prior to our holiday vacation, we have Christmas lessons with all of our classes, including the adults. Our school provided snacks and drinks (usually hot or cold green tea), but our adult group classes were encouraged to bring food and drinks (they were even allowed to bring booze if everyone in the class was over 20). So, my last week before the break included a lot of Christmas crafts with my kid classes, sing-a-longs with my really young kids classes, and chatting and food with my adults. I have two adult classes that I'm particularly fond of. One is on Wednesdays at 3 pm with 4 adults that are at an intermediate level. They brought in gifts for me and we chatted throughout the entire class. One of the students in that class grew up in Hiroshima and always brings me these little sweets shaped like maple leaves called "momiji". They have various fillings, the one pictured below is filled with sweet potato, and I have one to give to Melody when she gets here that I believe is filled with sweet bean paste and it's covered in white chocolate. So yummy.
Anyway, there's another adult class that I really like. They're more at a beginner level of English and the class is on Monday nights. They went all out for the Christmas party...they brought fried chicken (a Christmas staple here in lieu of roast turkey), tons of sweets, beer, umeshu, and Christmas cake (another tradition here). We listened to Christmas cds the whole class and stayed at the school an hour after the actual end of the class.
Let's just say I wasn't short of any Christmas spirit this year. And I expect it to only get better. I'm going to Disneyland on Monday with Leslie, and then Melody comes in on Tuesday, and we have a whole slew of stuff planned. There's nothing like a 2 week break from work to make you fall in love with the place you're living again.
And, I know how this might sound, but there's something about my clean and cushion-y tatami mat floors that puts me in a good mood when I'm home. Good lord. I sound like my mother...!
Oh yes, and Nathalie got me a Holga for Christmas. I went to Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara yesterday and bought some b&w and color film for it. I'm curious as to whether or not my local FujiColor store will develop 120 film, but I guess I'll find out. I'm having insane amounts of fun with an analog camera...finally! It makes me wants to do darkroom stuff again, which I messed with in middle school a lot but haven't done any since. So, definitely a goal.
And just for your entertainment, here's a really cool post from Danny Choo about Christmas in Japan: http://www.dannychoo.com/post/en/25335/History+of+Christmas+in+Japan.html#twitter
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!