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Japan Update wishes all a Merry Christmas

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2011-12-23

Santa Claus is coming to town in just a few short hours, New Year’s is just around the corner, and the Lunar New year isn’t far behind, either.

Okinawa, an island which celebrates virtually everyone’s holidays including both the traditional and Lunar New Year, has a lot happening in the days ahead. Here in Okinawa, it’s a little of everything; colorful lights, special religious services, music and laughter everywhere.

Christmas Fantasy is going on at Okinawa Zoo Park, the lights are burning at the Itoman Illumination at Peace Prayer Park, and hotels, resorts and businesses are turning up the lights, too. There are dozens of events taking place daily across the island, and a full listing is contained in the Japan Update Events This Week column.

Bios-on-the-Hill on Kadekaru in the Ishikawa district of Uruma City is featuring a Christmas tree decorated with bright orchid flowers, including the Dendrobium phalaenopsis and Oncidium, which are the centerpiece of the Christmas exhibit. The tree’s five meters tall and is made of more than 10,000 orchids. Definitely worth seeing through Christmas Day.

Bios-on-the-Hill is open 9 a.m. ~ 6 p.m. daily, with last entry at 5 p.m. Admission is ¥690 for adults, high school and junior high students, and ¥350 for kids four years of age through elementary school age. Bios on the Hill is located at 961-30 Kadekaru.

Mihama Carnival Park’s Christmas Show takes place Saturday and Sunday, with a super-duper Christmas event. Live performances take place on the first floor of the Carnival Park building, under the ferris wheel, with shows at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., including performances by Siberian Skunk, a local Okinawa band.

It’s also rumored that there will be a guest appearance by the evil Harusa-eika, a character from the popular Okinawan children’s show Ryujin Mabuya. An evening recommendation goes to the 6 pm. and 8 p.m. live Christmas show with R & B singer Stephanie Soul, who’ be singing many popular American Christmas songs, and even a Japanese rendition of Silent Night.

A few others you may wish to consider as special are on Christmas Eve. Ocean Spa 2011 Christmas Event Soluna has three free shows at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at Okinawa Kariyushi Beach Resort Ocean Spa. At JAL Private Resort Okuma, Kunigami, admission’s free to an Old FGashion Love Song Christmas in Okuma Special, and the Food Colosseum Okinawa Terrace Space in Omoromachi, Naha, there’s a Christmas Laser Show in DFS. Tickets are ¥500

On Christmas Day, check out the Eastern Choir & Show Fantasy ‘Dreamy Christmas 2011’, a free show at the Loisir Hotel in Nishimachi, Naha, at 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., All Japan Pro Wrestling at 4 p.m. at the Okinawa Martial Arts Hall in Onoyama Park. Tickets range from ¥3,000~7,000. The Santa Claus Stroll at Tomiton Shopping Center in Toyosaki is free at 1 pm. and 3 p.m.

Japan Update wishes all its readers a very happy holiday season, and best wishes for the new year. And as we all celebrate, let’s take a moment to appreciate what the holidays are all about.

Customs and traditions vary around the world, but from Okinawa and Japan to Korea and China, to the continents of Europe, Africa, America, South America and Australia, December is a very special time. It’s a time for gift-giving, paying homage to ancestors, dressing up and decorating, and good old fashioned fun.

Christmas lights first began popping up in Japan in 1903, when some 6,700 bulbs were strong across buildings as part of an exhibition in Osaka. They began becoming popular in the 1990’s, when blue light-emitting diodes were invented and became commercialized. With an LED light running 10,000~40,000, while consuming only one-seventh the power of a conventional incandescent bulbs, Japanese jumped at the chance to brighten the night skies everywhere.

Christmas is celebrated around the world, even by those with differing religious beliefs, as Christians honor the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Santa Claus is a part of Christmas, a tradition originally with jolly ol’ St. Nick in Scandinavia, where he made home visits to fill children’s stockings and deliver gifts.

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, has already concluded, having run sunset December 11th through sunset December 19th. Hanukkah is celebrated to mark the survival of Judaism 23 centuries ago. Jews light the menorah, a special candleholder, to pay homage to a miracle when one day’s oil burned for eight days in the temple. St. Lucia Day, a Swedish celebration, also uses candles as part of the festivities. By tradition, young girls dress in long white gowns with red sashes, adorn their heads with burning candles, and sing to their families.

Kwanzaa, an American-created secular holiday, began in 1966. The African-American holiday runs seven days, from December 26th through January 1st. Instituted by a university professor in the aftermath of the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Kwanzaa was intended to bring the community together. Christmas is a national holiday, but not in mainland China or Japan. In all, though, the popularity of the holiday, with gift giving and colorful lights, make Christmas a near worldwide celebration. Even in Islamic and Hindu countries, the secular side of Christmas is widely celebrated. The Philippines boasts the world’s longest Christmas season, starting with a handful of activities in September, then pickup up steam with the nine-day dawn Masses that began December 16th.

In Central and Eastern Europe, Christmas Eve takes precedence. December 24th is often a fasting day, with gift-giving in the evening. From the Czech Republic and Slovakia to Hungary and Poland, evening feasts

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