Holiday Cheer Part 1: American Holidays and Teaching English in Japan

Holiday Cheer Part 1: American Holidays and Teaching English in Japan
When compared to living in my home country, the US, the holidays here in Japan are pretty
tame. To be honest, they’re a bit boring. If you dig a little deeper you can find genuinely
interesting cultural and historical aspects to each of them, but what you usually won’t find is any
sort of tradition of parties, lively community-wide observance, or exciting get-togethers. This has
the side-effect of making your Japanese students quite interested in your home country’s
holiday traditions, so why not make the most of it and incorporate some of it into your lessons?


In the past decade or so, Halloween has been increasingly creeping into the Japanese
consciousness. It’s not too uncommon now to run into Halloween decor around the city,
especially in areas where younger people hang out. The epicenter of Halloween in Tokyo is
Shibuya, which is full of costumed revelers on the night.
The most obvious way to bring a bit of the Halloween spirit into your classroom is by wearing a
costume. A good costume is probably something that fits the ‘classic’ Halloween theme if your
school doesn’t promote the holiday, but you can do more imaginative costumes if you’re part of
a school effort. You can even encourage your students to dress up, but don’t pressure them –
this kind of thing is still way outside the norms of Japanese society.


Christmas is a good topic to remind yourself that the Japanese in general do not and cannot see
your holidays and seasons from back home in the same way. Christmas in Japan is, like most
special calendar dates, just another normal workday and yes, feels a bit soulless. But this
doesn’t mean you can’t feel the ‘holiday spirit’ yourself and try to spread a tiny bit of that to your
Some good ways to bring the Christmas feel to your classroom are small candy gifts (by the
way, real candy canes are surprisingly difficult to come by here), wearing a Christmas sweater,
and of course the ubiquitous Santa hat which you can find at any dollar store.


Easter is still largely unknown in Japan. As it’s more difficult to teach about without a certain
amount of Christian knowledge, it can be hard to frame in a way your students understand. Still,
by highlighting the more accessible aspects like wearing pastel colors, easter eggs, and
chocolate it’s possible to bridge into teaching points about the springtime and cute critters.
In the next part of this article, let’s look at some other, smaller holidays and how (or if) you can
use them in your classroom experience.