Hello, and belated Merry Christmas from J-List.
We hope you all had a pleasant, quiet day with family and friends this Christmas season. We had a fine Christmas, with our traditional giving-more-presents-than-necessary-to-kids. Hit presents this year included a baby for Rina's Rika-chan doll (which Kazuki promptly named Ida Kaori, which could be our Kaori, or the member of the Japanese unit Morning Musume who happens to have the same name), the Kimono version of Rika-chan and Kazuki's favorite, the train that transforms into a big robot, Grand Liner.
Christmas in Japan is a very different affair than in the States. In Japan Christmas Eve is actually the more important day, a special time to have a nice dinner with the family (if you're family oriented), or with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Actually, Christmas Eve is the most popular night of the year for girls to lose their innocence, and love hotels are always full on the 24th. Now that Christmas is behind us, preparations for New Year's are underway.
In many ways, the roles of Christmas and New Year's in Japan are reversed -- Christmas is a happy, fun time of Christmas parties, but New Year's is a solemn time of Buddhist and Shinto rites, on reflecting on what the past year has brought, and praying for happiness in the new year. You would never wear a paper hat and rattle a noisemaker on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, although the sound of bells ringing 108 times at Buddhist temples (or on TV) is quite common.