May 25th, 2019

Celebrate the differences of the season

By Letter to the Editor on December 7, 2018.

There are many ways to celebrate during Christmas time. At the kindergarten, an American teacher brought pieces of roasted turkey for us to find the “real taste of Christmas.” I was unimpressed: “What a boring, tasteless meat!”

At my father’s church, we had a huge pot of pork and vegetable miso stew for the Christmas party. Growing up in Japan, Christmas for me was the Christmas candlelight service and the party afterward. Many Christians are converts, so they do not celebrate Christmas at home for other family members are not Christians. Christmas presents were exchanged between church members. Santa did not come to homes; he sold merchandise at department stores.

When I lived in Switzerland on the first week of Advent, we got together at the church with mulled wine, oranges and walnuts, and enjoyed conversation. In South Africa and Lesotho, we had “Carols and Candle Lights” at the soccer pitch and other outdoor venues. Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere comes in the middle of summer, so you get out into the cool of the night and sing carols and watch a Christmas pageant. Too hot to roast turkey in 40 C.

At drinking joints in Tokyo, you hear “Merry Christmas” more often than any other places. No wife, no kids, just buddies from work. Most of them are non-Christians. Christmas Eve is the time of serious boozing. They take home cakes to appease unhappy wives.

In Lesotho, when you hear “Merry Christmas,” you see an extended hand. It’s a tradition missionaries started. They had no family Christmas, so the only thing they saw with the word “Christmas” was a charity handout. Watching how Europeans celebrated Christmas, they learned drinking and fighting. Christmas was the busiest day at the hospital; many broken ribs and cracked heads.

We go to Toronto for a combined Christmas/Hanukkah celebration. We light the Menorah and eat turkey. Once we found a whole family of in-laws in my daughter’s house escaping their cold, dark home due to the power failure caused by an ice storm. My son-in-law had to go to a drug store on Christmas Eve, the only store still open, and bought presents for the children from the Jewish side of the family. Theirs were not under the tree; it’s not their custom.

Christmas season is the time of love and togetherness. It’s called different names, and people greet differently. Even among Christians they do differently. But the spirit of the season binds us together. Let us adapt and celebrate.

Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui


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