Join in the Festive Fun over the Holidays

by Ulara Nakagawa

It’s catching just a bit of Christmas music at the department store that can send a tingling ripple of warmth through my body. My family is not particularly religious and I never attended mass at church or anything of the like as a child. But, during the holiday season in Canada, there were Christmas trees and presents, light festivals at local parks, snow forts and icicles and most exciting: the winter break from school. Whatever unique and special experiences were had in the past, the sense of happy nostalgia that is evoked by any reminder of such times is a testament to memories that remain ever important to us adults today.

When asked about their childhood memories of Christmas, most Japanese are stumped. Here in the East, it seems that New Year’s is the major winter holiday, with highlights being elaborate home cooked dishes, games with relatives and little envelopes stuffed with cash gifts. So, for most Japanese natives, while a waft of a traditional New Year’s hotpot just like mom used to make might bring back happy memories, Christmas is really just another commercialized day, not unlike Valentine’s or White Day. Thus, most tend to celebrate now with a decorated cake shared with a romantic partner or a group of close friends.

Children with foreign parents or backgrounds staying in Japan over the holidays may be able to experience the best of both worlds. For New Year’s, there is no doubt that there will be many activities and celebrations to partake in. For Christmas however, aside from the fancy cake and a holiday theme at Disneyland, it might be more of a challenge getting into the spirit around Tokyo. A quick internet search using the key words “Christmas”, “kids/children”, “activities” and “Tokyo” didn’t offer me many options. Luckily, it seems that at P.A.L. International School located in the center of the city, all are welcome to join in on the many upcoming holiday activities the school has to offer.

While many other schools and kindergartens have winter vacation breaks, P.A.L. International School will remain open throughout the month. The holiday spirit will be in full force there with Christmas themes spilling over into its various afternoon classes. All  weekday courses begin at 1:30pm and range in duration depending on the day’s particular activity. Children attending these are welcome to stay after class and socialize with others until late afternoon.

Arts and Crafts Mondays
The gingerbread houses have long been consumed, but my mother still keeps a collection of holiday creations my brother and I made as children, including stockings with glued-on buttons and shiny paper, and walnuts wearing Santa hats. Monday afternoon Arts and Craft classes at P.A.L.. aim to encourage children to express their love and talent for art and to create their own one of its kind artwork to be kept in the memory chest for years to come. Over the month of December, the art class will have a special Christmas project for children to work on.

Japanese Culture Tuesdays
Santa suits rather than Kimonos come to mind during this time of year but as it is important to appreciate all cultures over the holidays, P.A.L. will hold a Japanese Culture class on Tuesday afternoons. The course aims to teach foreign children all about Japan and the opportunity to experience some authentic Japanese ways of life. December’s themes include Ikebana, (Japanese flower arrangement), Kimono wearing and tea ceremonies.

Gym Wednesdays
What better way to get the New Year started than to get moving? While our resolutions may include exercise to maintain a healthy mind and body (or to fit into ‘those’ jeans by March), children exercise for play. Children taking part in Gym Wednesdays at P.A.L. will be carefully supervised by teachers who instruct them in stretching, jumping, bending and moving higher and further than ever.

Cooking Thursdays
There isn’t a coworker at the office that doesn’t get excited over a tray of homemade holiday cookies. The ability to bake, learned at an early age, certainly can be a great asset for making those around us happy. The weekly cooking class held at P.A.L. is on Thursdays and perfect for children who love to help out in the kitchen at home, to expand on their skills and knowledge in cooking. Christmas foods will be the main focus this month.

Drama Fridays
Remember The Nativity Scene and A Christmas Carol? Perhaps the most exciting part of participating in these plays was to perform for our proud parents in the audience. (Not necessarily the tacky costumes.) Friday drama classes will also focus on Christmas themes and are a great outlet for imaginative children to put on a show through various role plays and situations.

On top of these afternoon activities, P.A.L. International will host its major holiday event on Dec. 14. At the P.A.L. annual Christmas party, children, parents and guests are invited to enjoy a Christmas dance and drama performance put on by students. Christmas costumes and Christmas cooking will be some of the other festivities.

For further information on the school and these activities please call 03-5770-8166. A guided tour of P.A.L. is available. See for more details.