This may surprise you but Christmas Day isn’t actually a public holiday in Japan. Christmas Eve is actually more widely celebrated than Christmas Day. It is often thought of as a couple’s holiday much like Valentine’s Day. It is especially popular with young couples to go to a romantic restaurant, exchange gifts and go on a night-time stroll. Christmas lights are big part of Japan’s festive season and many public parks and landmarks put up elaborate illuminations.
As such, Christmas presents tend to only be exchanged between couples and very close friends. This is because Japan already have their own year-end gift-giving custom called oseibo (お歳暮). They are given as thanks to people that have done you kindness during the year including colleagues, bosses, teachers and family friends.
In the West, most variations of Christmas cake are usually ones with baked with an array of dried fruit. However, in Japan Christmas cake refers to strawberry shortcakes (though they are also popular as birthday cakes). A strawberry shortcake is a layered cake with rum-soaked genoise sponge filled with fresh strawberries and chantilly cream.