Christmas Around The World - Japan

When most of us think of Christmastime, visions of hams, turkeys, rolls, cakes, pies, and other goodies dance in our heads. And while many Christmas traditions take place outside the dining room, the festivities almost always revolve around food. We've found this to be the case no matter where you live, so take a moment to share in holiday traditions and favorite recipes from Church members around the world.


Merii Kurisumasu! Even though it's not a national holiday, Christmas is still a big hit in Japan. They decorate with Christmas trees and give each other gifts. The Japanese Christmas Cake, much like strawberry shortcake, is one of the most prominent traditions. Since only 2 percent of Japanese people are Christian, the focus of the holiday is helping others. Many families spend the day in service.

In Japan, there is a kind old man called Hoteiosho, who is like Santa Claus. He carries a huge pack and is said to have eyes in the back of his head, so the children behave if they ever think that he is around.

For Japanese Latter-day Saints, the holiday is a special time when they can draw together and celebrate Christ. "Every Japanese ward has a spiritual celebration in the chapel," says Yoko Ikegami of Himeji City. "We then eat together, and everyone brings a food to share. Sometime on Christmas Eve, we go caroling in front of the train station where there are many people coming and going. Some people stop to listen and enjoy the singing."

Japanese Christmas Cake
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk, warmed
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • various fruits (such as strawberries, peaches, cherries, oranges)
Whisk eggs in a bowl. Place the bowl over warm water in another large bowl and continue whisking. Add 2/3 cup sugar a little at a time. When the egg mixture becomes light yellow, sift flour and add to the bowl. Mix the flour lightly into the egg mixture. Mix butter in warm milk; add to batter and stir gently. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line an 8-inch cake pan with waxed paper. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool it on a rack. Cut the cake in half horizontally. Mix heavy cream and 4 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Whip the cream well. Take half of the whipped cream and mix with chopped fruits. Place part of the cream on top of a round cake slice. Place another cake slice on top of the cream. Spread the rest of the whipped cream on top of and around the cake. Decorate the cake with colorful fruits and Christmas decorations. Makes 6 servings.

Yoko Ikegami
Himeji Ward
Kobe Stake
Himeji City, Hyogo-pref, Japan

Recipes and experiences excerpted from Worldwide Christmas Cookbook by Deanna Buxton. Copyright 2009, Covenant.

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