Different cultures around the world mark the winter holidays with a delightful range of seasonal traditions. Join us on a quick tour of some truly distinctive holiday customs.
First stop: Japan. The snow-white confection known as a Japanese Christmas cake is an important—and delicious—holiday custom in a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. But among the secular festivities of Japan’s holiday season (including city streets festooned with Western-inspired holiday glitter and ads promoting gift-giving) their bakeries turn out frosted sponge cakes garnished with fresh fruit (usually strawberries), chocolates, and Santa Claus figurines.
The Christmas cake gained popularity as Japan rebuilt following the destruction of World War II. This Western-style desert symbolized luxury and the re-emergence of a prosperous middle class. Today, it’s one of the country’s most popular winter holiday traditions. In fact, scholars cite the sharing of Christmas cake as the centerpiece, and highlight, of Japan’s increasingly popular Christmas festivities.