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.)


SapphireSavvy said...

Oo, that cake looks delicious!

"Ask me about pumpkin pie"--too funny! I'll bet they'll think you can't make anything delicious out of a pumpkin.

The couples proposing tradition is sweet, but kind of funny too!

Sara Backer said...

Actually, pumpkin is a common vegetable in Japan. They grow pumpkins on the warm and sunny roofs of their houses. Pie, however, is not found in Japan. I missed pie when I was there. (I had no oven to bake my own.)

I didn't have Christmas Cake in Japan because you have to order them weeks in advance. The one pictured is simple and elegant, but decorations are an art form in themselves. I saw one Christmas Cake decorated with Pokemon characters!

SapphireSavvy said...

Well, I knew they ate different gourds, but I had no idea they'd imported the pumpkin! Neat!

Pokemon--OMG LMAO. My husband used to work at Mitsubishi Trust 10 years ago and he brought home this promotional "Pokemon" stuff--and we were like, what is this crap?! and threw it all away!!


jenny milchman said...

Imm, I would love that cake. It's interesting to see another culture assimilating something from ours.