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Thursday, December 25, 2014

CHRISTMAS IN THE ORIENT

Christmas in the Orient is, amazingly enough, well celebrated, here and there.  While 77% of Americans are Christian, almost 90% of the population in the Philippines are Christians (80% Catholic), and they actually begin showing signs of holiday cheer in September with Christmas carols.  From December 16, and every morning until Xmas, many go to mass.  It is no surprise, then, that celebrations continue to the First Sunday in January, when Epiphany, or the Feast of the Three Kings, brings festivities to a close.

Hawaii is less than 1500 miles from the International Dateline, so it is already the day after Christmas in the Orient.  If you travel there, remember that when you leave Honolulu at noon on December 25, with the five hour differential, you arrive in Tokyo around 2 PM on December 26.  Make sure that your hotel reservation accommodates this loss of one day.  However, I  remember once when I spent my whole birth date in Tokyo, left at 6PM, and returned to Honolulu at 6AM, where I again enjoyed my birthday.

South Korea has almost 30% Christians and Christmas is a national holiday.  Seoul is such a cool city, that, of course, there are decorations aplenty.  Below, 1400 volunteers dressed as Santa Claus to raise funds for poverty.

The country with the next most percentage of Christians is Singapore, with 18%.  I once spent Christmas in this amazing city, and they go absolutely bonkers on decorations.  It has mostly to do with the government wanting to show off and the business one-upping each other to draw customers.  The six week secular display is so spectacular, that I'll provide four more photos:


Hong Kong has 10% Christians, and was noted by CNN to be one of the Top 10 places for Christmas:  WinterFest, Symphony of Lights and Disneyland, yes, Disneyland (left).  There is a TWO-day public holiday.  WinterFest begins in mid-November and extends through New Year's Day.  There are pyrotechnics and fireworks and, well, you get the point.  The Crystal Harmony will spend December 31/January 1 in Hong Kong Harbor.


Japan is an enigma regarding Christmas.  It is NOT a national holiday, although, surprisingly, Thanksgiving is, held on November 23 as Labor Thanksgiving Day.  Two percent of Japanese are Christian, the same percentage as....Israel.  Even though Jesus Christ was born in what is now Israel, Christmas in not  a national holiday there, too.  But in Japan, commercial Christmas reigns, and you'd never guess what is now the traditional dinner?  Takeout Kentucky Fried Chicken!  This all began with a marketing campaign in 1974.  Earlier in the '60's Christmas cake also became popular, thus, the family pack (below), which costs around $32.  Can you believe that people stand in line for HOURS to get their Christmas dinner?  When did you ever see a line outside a KFC in the USA?


Here's another question for you.  What is the most romantic day of the year in Japan, even more so than Valentine's, when women give presents to men, usually chocolates?  CHRISTMAS!!!  Restaurants are booked way ahead of time and it is impossible to find a room in a Love hotel.

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