Christmas without Jesus

Christmas is celebrated grandly in Japan; not as a religious festival but as an annual function. Towns are displayed by Christmas decorations and American-style Christmas songs resound everywhere. Young lovers date and eat at gorgeous restaurants, and parents give presents to children in place of Santa Claus. However, they may not be aware of Christmas being the birthday of Jesus Christ. Naturally, anyone hardly goes to the church.

Christianity failed in propagation three times in this country; by Catholic priests in 16th century, by Protestant missionaries in 19th century, and by the Military Occupation Headquarters after Greater East Asian War. The reason is intolerance of Christianity. Buddhism is a very tolerant religion. There are many sects, but we can go to any temple of any sect to give prayer, or we can go to Shinto shrine if we wish. Incidentally, Shinto is a totally different religion to Buddhism. If Christian churches accept non-Christians to come to pray, many Japanese will happily visit there.

Unfortunately, Christianity has bad Early Memories at the time of Roman Empire and still now it regards pagans with hostility. However, we should remember that Romans did not refuse Christianity from the beginning. Rather, Christianity refused Roman religion. The persecution was caused not by the intolerance of the Romans, but by it of Christians. Anyway, intolerance to other religions is the early decision of Christianity. This decision, however, is childish and may not be realistic in recent days. In Asian world, many religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, etc. coexist for thousand of years. We are not reluctant to count Christianity between them. Christianity would change its quality, but its essential core should survive, just like many Asian religions.

A person, who had been a devotee of a guru of Hinduism, converted into Buddhism. Gautama Buddha persuaded him to continue the service to the guru. When Christianity accepts pagans like this, many Japanese will go to the church every Sunday, and Japanese Christmas will gain religious quality. Not only Santa Claus, but also Jesus Christ and his Holy Mother will be celebrated. And, nevertheless, in New Year’s Day, they will go to the Shinto shrine, and in the Feast of Lanterns, a Buddhist festival for the dead, they will go to the Buddhist temple.