Japanese Christians who had been converted by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries first celebrated Christmas in Japan as a religious observance in the mid-16th century. Christmas gradually evolved into a secular family celebration between the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods. Today it takes the form of a popular year-end celebration. As Christmas day approaches, stores and shopping arcades assume a festive atmosphere with Christmas trees and other Christmas decorations. Christmas music helps to further heighten the festive mood.

Sharing a Christmas cake on Christmas Eve and exchanging presents among family and friends are the most popular ways of celebrating the holiday in Japan. A TOSS survey of children from kindergarten to junior high* found that the most popular presents were computer game consoles and game software (42 %). These were followed by: cash (19 %), personal computers (14 %), and clothes (10 %). The order of the wish list varies according to age. Sixty % of junior high school students said they preferred cash to anything else.

*TOSS Children's Survey, "What do you want for Christmas?," 2000




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