Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake, a strawberry sponge-cake with whipped cream, is a British tradition the Japanese adopted. (Though many Japanese think it's American, and were astonished that I never ate Christmas Cake. I was tempted to wear a button saying "Ask me about pumpkin pie.") However, in Japan the tradition has a twist. In American Fuji, a Tokyo woman, Jiyuko, explains to Alex why she doubts she will get married (p.17-18):

"I'm twenty-five. I'm Christmas cake. It's too late."

"I don't understand. Christmas Cake?"

"Everyone wants fancy decorated cake for the night of December 24th. But on Christmas, the 25th, the cake is stale, and no one wants it. It is the same with girls. If a girl is not married by the age of 25, she is too old, and Jingle Bells are 'Single Bells' for her."

Another layer of this Christmas Cake metaphor is that Christmas Eve has become the designated night for Japanese boyfriends to propose marriage to their girlfriends. The stroke-of-midnight proposal is a staple of Japanese TV mini-series dramas. In real life, it causes much nervousness between dating couples.

(The cake pictured is from the Belle Epoque bakery in London. Highly recommended.)

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