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Hi Blog. Let me say it upfront: If you’re celebrating December customs such as Christmas, then I hope you had a Merry (and unobstructed) Christmas and a Happy New Year. If your Christmas was in fact obstructed in some way by people who claim that “Christmas is not Japanese” or “Christmas is something you should outgrow” (as happened to a friend of mine recently), my end-year SNA column is for you:
Visible Minorities: Celebrating Christmas as a Compromise
SNA (Tokyo) — A long-term Non-Japanese resident friend, married with a Japanese husband and adult kids, recently told me about a new development in their relationship: Christmas was no longer to be celebrated in their household.
Their children were all grown and didn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore; so no more presents or any big dinner to celebrate the day. They would allow her only a tree.
Why this sudden change of heart? To her surprise, all this time Christmas had been regarded by the family as a nuisance, a cultural imposition on them. Now it was time to grow out of it.
It raises a fundamental issue that someday comes up within any intercultural relationship: How much culture do you give up for the sake of compromise?
I argue that Japan’s “unique” culture narrative (and therefore its lack of commonality with anything “foreign”, by definition) can often create sudden, long-term culture shocks. Because people here can see any accommodation of “foreign” culture as an identity sacrifice, a denial of “Japaneseness”, this can kill relationships, and I offer advice on what to do about it.
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