Nothing screams Christmas more than Christmas cake, illuminations, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, at least here in Japan. There is definitely a different feel to Christmas here than in the states. For one, it sorta crept up on me. I mean, I know how soon it is but it doesn’t really feel like it because I am not running around buying presents for people, wrapping them, and making sure I write Christmas cards for others (or rather just sign the ones my parents make). I am just going about my daily life and not giving much thought to the holiday season. In a way, I kinda like that. Christmas isn’t shoved in my face of sales and presents and stressing over what to get people. It’s just…there being inviting enough for anyone who wants to join in yet gentle enough to not shun those who are not into the Christmas spirit.
Another different feel is how I am spending it this year. This was the first year I did some Christmas-y things that normal people did but I just missed the boat on it. For example, build a gingerbread house. I have never built one before but it wasn’t for lack of interest. I just didn’t think to make one because I usually have other things on my mind during the holidays like gifts and school. I was happy I was able to make one with my friends here in Japan. I would not have had it any other way.
Along with the gingerbread house, we celebrated Christmas Japanese style with KFC and Christmas cake.
Another first was snow! My entire life was spent living in an area that never saw snow. Heck, it never saw below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). So when I walked outside and I saw snow on my car, literally my first thought was “who put salt on my car?” Then it clicked that it was snow and I was so excited! I played with it a little bit and even made a snowman! My very first snowman out of snow! He had no face but that’s okay.
But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows (neither of which are in the sky anyway). There are some things around this time that make me sad. The first being it is flipping cold! The benefit of living in perfect weather your whole life is also the drawback when leaving it to go anywhere remotely different. I am freezing cold and everyone knows it. The good thing though is that everyone else is just as freezing as I am so I don’t feel like a little bitch when I say that I am cold.
But the biggest is that this is my first time I am away from my family. I have never been apart from them longer than a month and that was only during the summer when I was here last. Now, I have been away for almost five months and it is the holiday season where people go home for Christmas and spend time with those they love and care about. I can’t do that this year because I already spent the funds to go home on the conference that was lackluster anyway. When I think about my friends and family back home, I cry over how much I miss them. That loneliness and missing people I loved has put me in a bit of a grumpy funk this past week and I can only foresee it getting worse the closer Christmas approaches. Video calls are fine and all, but nothing beats physically seeing someone and holding them close to you.
My supervisor at one of my schools did something that made me cry but in a good way. After talking about random stuff for an hour, I started to pack up my things to go home to my cold, uninviting apartment. As I was packing my things, she comes over to my desk with a small package and a card on top of it. She said “I know this is your first Christmas in Japan…” and handed me the package. At first, I was like aww you didn’t have to but thank you and opened it and she told me what it was (Japanese cloth used for many things is what I pulled from it and some tea). But then when I left and I really thought about it, I started to cry. That was the first gift I have received while here in Japan and I didn’t ask for anything nor was I expecting anything. The more I thought about it, the more I took it like she was doing a mom thing (she has kids of her own). Then I thought about my own mom and dad and how much they are probably missing me and yeah, turn on the waterworks.
But it isn’t all bad (ending on a positive note). I have plans to go to Nagano with a good friend of mine and celebrate Christmas onsening it up (and maybe some shopping or winter sports…maaaaaybe). I am also excited to experience New Year’s in Japan, whatever that means. This time will pass and I will be back to experiencing my time here in Japan and looking forward to the days where I get to see them again.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! 😀