Christmas was introduced in Japan by the Christian missionaries and for many years the only people who celebrated it were those who had turned to the Christian faith.
But now the Christmas season in Japan is full of meaning and is almost universally observed.
The idea of exchanging gifts seems to appeal strongly to the Japanese people.
The tradesmen have commercialized Christmas just as our western shops have done.
For several weeks before the day, the stores shout Christmas.
There are decorations and wonderful displays of appropriate gifts for men, women, and children — especially children.
Many western customs in observing Christmas have been adopted by the Japanese.
Besides exchanging gifts, they eat turkey on Christmas Day and in some places there are even community Christmas trees.
They decorate their houses with evergreens and mistletoe, and in some homes Christmas carols are sung gaily.
In Japan there is a god or priest known as Hoteiosho, who closely resembles our Santa Claus. He is always pictured as a kind old man carrying a huge pack. He is thought to have eyes in the back of his head. It is well for the children to be good when this all-seeing gentleman is abroad.
New Year’s Day is the most important day of the whole calendar in Japan.
On New Year’s Eve the houses are cleaned thoroughly from top to bottom, and are decorated for the morrow.
When everything has been made clean and neat the people of the house dress themselves in their finest clothes.
Then the father of the household marches through the house, followed by all the family, and drives the evil spirits out.
He throws dried beans into every corner bidding the evil spirits withdraw and good luck enter.