When it comes to calendars and holidays, Japan and the U.S. are on opposite schedules. For example, the school year in America begins in August. In Japan it’s in April. And when it comes to actual work and school holidays, it’s completely different as well. Sure, some of the days roughly line up (Winter break always goes over New Years in both countries) but then other holidays don’t even line up at all.
One holiday both countries agree on, oddly enough, is Christmas! Even though it’s not a holiday in the sense of a day off here in Japan, it is widely recognized and celebrated (even though I think most people here don’t know that Christmas is about the birth of Christ). But what do we do as Americans for other important U.S. holidays that are just normal days here in Japan — days like the 4th of July or Thanksgiving?
We’ve sometimes treated them like normal days, but it always feels lame when you look at social media and see all of your friends and family celebrating back home. It makes you feel home sick! So more often then not, we go the extra mile to get together with other friends and family and celebrate these holidays anyway. People like a good reason to celebrate, and it helps us hang on to our roots while developing roots here in Japan. Recently, we’ve even been melding some Japanese traditions into our family celebrations, and it makes for a really fun celebration that honors both our past and are present.
So this year as Thanksgiving came up, we decided to go all in for the celebration. We held a thanksgiving event at the coffee shop for our friends, and then we whisked away to one of our favorite vacation spots to enjoy a couple of days with our American friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving together. It was an absolute blast, and I’m so glad we went to the extra work of making it happen.
It’s easy just to sit back and not do anything for these holidays, and it’s certainly not normal to take your kids out of school for a couple of days to do something like this (talk about something counter-cultural in Japan!). But the bonds we build as a family and the memories we make while forging a new path here in Japan is something that is priceless. When we look back in the future, we will be glad we did these things, even if it meant some extra work to make it happen! The extra work spent invested in the family pays huge dividends in the future with a home full of joy, good relationships, understanding and love.