Ah, the holiday episodes. Most series have em. And, yeah, most of the time they’re pure filler. Oh, sure, the creators will claim that character development is going on, but let’s be honest. You could easily change out Christmas Eve for one of the character’s birthdays or, heck, even Valentine’s Day/White Day and get pretty much the same results.
…Wait a minute. Christmas Eve? What about Christmas Day?
As it turns out, in Japan Christmas Day really isn’t all that special at all. In fact, it’s usually like most other days. Schools and businesses stay open and continue on as if December 25th was any other day of the year. Instead, it’s Christmas Eve that gets all the attention, and if you haven’t noticed in the anime world yet, it’s primarily a day for couples and/or class parties. Religion really has nothing to do with it and, although gifts are given, other holiday traditions held in the US and other European nations aren’t really practiced. Their version of a Christmas cake is more like a sponge cake and their holiday meal of choice is fried chicken. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
It’s hard to say exactly how these changes in tradition occurred. After all, Christmas is a Western holiday, so one would think the traditions that are introduced over there would be closer to our own. In some ways they are. Santa still gets letters written in childish writing that parents spirit away to use as a shopping list weeks before the gift-giving event and the general air of good cheer is kept.
But why Christmas Eve and not the actual day itself? One theory might be found in the fact that many churches hold services on Christmas Eve, usually after dark, including plays and choir performances. But the actual day itself is usually used as a restful day with family. From Japan’s viewpoint, it might have looked as if Christmas Eve was the day to be celebrating.
In any case, Christmas is still a pretty big deal, even in Japan. Who doesn’t like seeing streets lined with pretty, sparkling lights? Besides, it gives the background animators something new to toy with. So next time a Christmas episode comes on, keep a sharp look out for romantic subplots thinly veiled as “character development” and grab some fried chicken (we recommend KFC in honor of all the one-letter-changed rip offs seen in nearly every anime). This is how we nerds have a Merii Kurisumasu!