Tis’ the season to be jolly, and here are our Top 8 Japanese Christmas Words for the year. This is our attempt at spreading the Christmas cheer through language learning. So メリクリ from everyone here at FAQ Japan!
You may also be interested in our New Year vocabulary post too, to continue expanding on your seasonal vocab.
1. メリークリスマス or メリクリ
メリークリスマス (Merii Kurisumasu) basically means ‘Merry Christmas’. However, the Japanese love to shorten everything, so メリクリ (Meri Kuri) is their shorter and casual equivalent. This is the same expression we use to greet our friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, etc.
However, in Japan, the greeting is mainly used by parents to their children. It could also be used between couples on this special day of romance, love and over-commercialisation. Outside this, groups of friends also get together to exchange the same greeting and celebrate with each other.
クリスマス・イブ (Kurisumasu Ibu) meaning ‘Christmas Eve’ is a special night not only for families but couples too. The evening of ‘Christmas Eve’ is generally considered more important than Christmas day, and is the key day families and couples celebrate.
Specifically for families, parents usually prepare gifts for younger children. The legend of Santa-san is still very strong in children’s minds. So, Mr Claus has already come bearing presents, placed under the Christmas Tree. The family usually celebrates together in the evening, with a special meal at dinner too.
For younger couples, this is also considered a special evening for romantic dinners and nights away. Similar in some respects to valentines day, guys tend to go all out on fine dining, fancy hotels and gifts too. This is all in vain to impress their partner and ensure the future solidarity of their relationship. Frequently, many expensive restaurants will be completely booked out. Similarly, expensive hotels will also see a rush in reservations for that night.
3. クリスマスデー or クリスマスの日
クリスマスデー (Kurisumasu dee) or クリスマスの日 (Kurisumasu no hi) both mean ‘Christmas Day’. In Japan, this day has little meaning and is treated as a regular business day. There is no official national holiday for Christmas in Japan.
Instead, families or groups of friends may opt to eat fried chicken or enjoy a special meal together. They may also indulge in Christmas cake. On this day, you should be able to find bargains on leftover unsold Christmas cakes too.
クリスマス・ケーキ (Kurisumasu Keeki) simply means ‘Christmas cake’, and is usually eaten on the evening of Christmas Eve or Christmas day. This is a popular tradition for most of Japan since its rapid industrialisation after World War II. Cakes were sold in Ginza, influenced by western culture to celebrate Christmas. The void of such a celebration in Japan meant that the concept caught on quickly. Consequently, the whole country was soon buying cakes and celebrating together.
Christmas Cake is generally made from a light and fluffy sponge cake. Usually, it is coated with a combination of whipped cream and strawberries. Sometimes, you can find them decorated with other seasonal fruit and Christmas ornaments of some kind.
As the tradition has grown and spread, so as the concept of the Christmas Cake. These days you can find many shapes, styles and kinds in fierce competition between confectionary stores.
Usually, friends or family will buy a cake and share it together on during Christmas.
クリスマスツリー (Kurisumasu Tsurii) is the Japanese word for ‘Christmas Tree’. These are generally used in stores or outside displays to get people in the Christmas spirit. However, families will use them to keep gifts under the tree for their children.
Similar to western culture, the trees are loaded with ornaments, tinsel and anything else related to the silly season. The idea of flashing lights or illuminations is also a popular decoration and or complements the tree too.
サンタさん (Santa-san) is the affectionate nickname for ‘Santa Claus’. Generally, the idea of Santa is used between parents and their children. So, when ‘Santa-san’ has visited your house, as a child you know you’re in for a treat or more.
Presents are usually only given to younger kids, as older kids (in their teens) tend to grow out of this superstition.
7. フライドチキン or 唐揚げ
フライドチキ (Furaido Chikin) or 唐揚げ (Karaage) both words refer to the Japanese’s love of fried chicken. Especially, during the Christmas season, KFC is a big deal. In fact, it is not uncommon to see people line up for hours or make advance bookings.
It is said that KFC started the tradition of fried chicken during the festive season. Back in the 1970s, they started a fried chicken Christmas set special. From then, the idea was so popular, it became a staple of the season. These days again many shops advertise their own brand of fried chicken for a piece of the market.
クリスマスイルミネーション (Kurisumasu Irumineeshon) stands for ‘Christmas Illumination’. This is another way the people of Japan love to welcome in the festive season. There are many light and illumination festivals that occur throughout the nation, and this is just another excuse to set up a display.
Viewing the illuminations is a typical part of a couples date on Christmas Eve. However, they usually start from November, right after Halloween ends. Hence, there is plenty of opportunities to enjoy them early too.