What Is The Most Popular Meal For Christmas In Japan

Although you may not immediately associate Christmas with Japan, there are many Japanese people who love to celebrate this holiday.

What Is The Most Popular Meal For Christmas In Japan

There are many traditions that have been adopted over the years that have since become popular staples of a Japanese Christmas celebration.  In this article, we will be looking at what the most popular food for Christmas in Japan is. 

How Is Christmas Celebrated In Japan?

The celebrations for this holiday are very different in Japan than they are in the US.  For a start, neither Christmas eve nor Christmas day are public holidays, therefore most of the celebrations are focused on the evening of December 24th.

Rather than large family get-togethers, couples are more likely to treat it as an early Valentine’s date night whereas groups of single friends will host small gatherings to celebrate where secret Santas are becoming more common. None of these celebrations extend very far into the night because the 25th of December is often a working day.  

It is also common to see the few Christmas decorations that have been put up, being taken down in the morning the next day.

Although Christmas is nowhere near as important in Japan as New Year, there are a few traditions that have begun to stick that mostly revolve around food.

Fried Or Roast Chicken

Although the tradition of eating chicken or turkey is very familiar in the western world at Christmas time, it may be surprising to know that this tradition seems to have spread to Japan’s holiday celebrations as well.

This is thanks in large part to a very well known fried chicken company running an extremely successful marketing campaign way back in the 1970s. Other restaurants in Japan will offer special dishes on the 24th as a sort of Christmas special.

It is also common for the fried or roast chicken to be served with various sides such as potato salads.  It is understood that the addition of potato salad sides to Christmas foods comes from the importing of German cuisine to the Christmas markets.  

Larger chain restaurants in Japan will often run special Christmas deals on the 24th that allow large amounts of fried chicken to be purchased at a low price which suits the rise in groups of young people hanging out together on Christmas eve.

Pizza

Another slightly unusual or unexpected Christmas food that is enjoyed in Japan is pizza. The popularity of this fast food favorite at this time of year comes off the back of KFC’s success.

With queues forming around the block from KFC outlets, other fast food restaurants wanted a slice of the action.  

The appearance of pizza in this list of popular Christmas foods in Japan isn’t actually as surprising as it may seem. Pizza has been a recognizable party food in the country for many years and therefore, it fits right in with the celebratory nature of this holiday in Japan.

Pizza companies will make Christmas special pizza toppings that are designed to reflect the season and often include chicken, beef, truffles, and camembert cheese.

There is also a trend for selling pizzas known as “Quattro” pizzas on the 24th of December.  A Quattro pizza has a different topping on each quarter which makes it perfect for small gatherings of friends to enjoy.  

Large multinational corporations Dominos and KFC have very cleverly teamed up in recent years to offer consumers in Japan a combination of both of their products to celebrate Christmas.

Smaller pizza companies in the country will often add extra chicken dishes to their menus for this night to help draw customers from other restaurants. 

Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake

This might seem to be one of the most recognizable Christmas food items in this article, however, all is not as it seems.

Far from the heavy, fruit-laden cake that you may be familiar with, Japanese Christmas cake is essentially a strawberry shortcake that gets dressed up and given a different name around the 24th of December.  

This Christmas cake consists of layers of sponge cake and strawberries with cream.  On the top of the iced cake, you will often find small Santa Claus figurines, sprigs of holly with berries, and other motifs that are synonymous with Christmas time.

The decorations on the top of the cake are often made of icing and are completely edible, much like a traditional Christmas fruit cake in the US.

If you visit Japan at Christmas time, you may find that a slice of Christmas cake is familiar to you. This is because the cake emoji on your smartphone is based on a slice of Japanese strawberry shortcake.

German Christmas Market Treats

In more recent years, German Christmas markets have become a common sight around Christmas time in Japan.

These pop-up German markets feature all of the decadent treats that you would find in an authentic Christmas market in the European country. Everything from Bratwurst sausages to stollen, and even mulled wine is available from the sweet little wooden huts.  

The most authentic and varied German Christmas markets can be found in larger cities, with Tokyo Christmas markets being touted as the best. These markets can become incredibly crowded, but it is a great place to purchase unique Japanese souvenirs.

Chanmery

Chanmery is a non-alcoholic beverage that has become a common component of Japanese Christmases. Named by combining the words “champagne” and “merry” from Merry Christmas.  

This fizzy drink gets part of its name from the popping sound it makes when it is opened which is reminiscent of the popping of a champagne cork.  You will often find Chanmery in colorful bottles that feature depictions of popular children’s characters.

This is because it is marketed as a party drink for children that allows them to join in with any toasts that happen. Although it was not originally made for this purpose, rather it was common in hostess bars where more money could be made when hostesses accepted drinks from patrons.  Chanmery allowed hostesses to accept drinks, maintain the party atmosphere, and stay sober.

The name Chanmery came once it had begun to be used as a party drink for children and the alcohol references had to be removed from the name. 

Final Thoughts

There are a few different popular foods that Japanese people like to consume during Christmas celebrations that have ties to western traditions but with their own unique twists. Spending a Christmas in Japan is a must-have experience.

Aura Ruggeri
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