I love Japan. Duh! If I could, I would live here for the rest of my life. But sometimes I hear of Japanese traditions that just don't make any sense. This is one of them: the Japanese Christmas cake.
It's a tradition in Japan to eat a Christmas cake (similar to a fancy strawberry shortcake) on Christmas Eve or on Christmas day. Usually these cakes are ordered and prepared by the local confectionery shop. The cakes, depending on their size, can be pretty expensive. A small round cake (like the one pictured above) can usually cost about 3,000 Yen or about $33.
Last Christmas, Jude's school principal and I had the following conversation about Christmas cakes. It went something like this:
Principal: "Did you already order your Christmas cake?" she asked me.
Weenie: "What Christmas cake?" I replied nicely.
Principal: "You know, the one you eat at Christmas time," she said convincingly.
Weenie: "Um, we don't eat cake at Christmas time," I replied.
Principal: "Yes, you do...you know the one for the birthday," she said even more convincingly.
Weenie: "Um, sorry, but we don't eat Christmas cake, nor do we buy a birthday cake for Jesus," I replied slightly confused.
Principal: "Japanese people buy Christmas cakes and light candles and sing happy birthday because you do it," she said slightly flustered.
Weenie: "No, sorry, we don't do that in our house, and, in fact, I don't know anyone who does that," I told her.
Principal: "In Japan, it's tradition to buy a Christmas cake, put candles on top, sing happy birthday or Silent Night, blow out the candle and make a wish. You're telling me that you don't do that?" she asked, confused.
Weenie: "Nope, we don't do that," I replied trying not to offend her.
Principal: "We do that because we thought all Westerners did that," she said with a hint of embarrassment in her voice.
Weenie: "Sorry, we don't do that. In fact, I've never heard of a Christmas cake," I replied.
After that, she walked away shaking her head, stunned and confused.
They've got it all wrong!