My first Christmas in Japan I stayed with a Japanese host family. There were three children ages 2, 5 and 9. They were ecstatic that an American was going to stay with them because in their mind it meant Santa was FINALLY going to visit their home and give them tons of presents. My host mother was not so excited.
There was some debate among the children, as they were compiling their list as to whether Santa would be able to read their wish lists as they were in Japanese. The eldest reckoned I could translate. When I agreed to translate the 5 year-old said, "In that case, we better use simple words."
My host mother attempted to discourage them from high expectations in a rather direct way. "Santa doesn't care about you! You're not Christians." she explained. The kids looked at me to see if this was true. i said, "Of course he cares! Santa Clause loves all children." My host mom glared at me in the way Japanese people do because they don't know how to roll their eyes.
When Christmas finally rolled around each child got one present clearly marked "From your mother and father" and a typed message from Santa in English on what looked like ticker tape. The children brought it to me to read.
It said, "Dear Japanese children, I did not bring you any presents because I am too busy giving white American children toys. Have a merry Chistmas! Sincerely Santa!" Obviously, I couldn't tell them what the letter said, my Japanese wasn't good enough at the time. So I told them Santa Claus died which explained the telegram. Or at least I wanted to tell them that. Instead, I told them Santa was too busy and that disappointed them but didn't devastate them. They remarked how Santa reminded them of their dad and soon became engrossed with their new toys.
I’m Spring Day (real name, hippie parents)
Moving back to the United States after having lived in Japan and traveling the world for 16 years has been a bit of a head fuck, especially since I now work in the U.K. My blog “The United States of Shock!” is where I give my brilliant and bitter two cents, pence, yen and euro on my experience with culture shock and current events. If you have any questions you would like to have answered in a snit, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org