You're pushing your shopping cart down the aisle at Kasumi Store, humming along with the Muzak-to-shop-by wafting down at you from the PA system: "I'll be home for Christmas..." when the depressing thought hits you that this year, you won't be home!!! Before you slide over the edge into a "Blue Christmas", consider some opportunities which may help to make the season bright. In addition to various public concerts and exhibits, churches in Tsukuba are hosting special celebrations. The International Christmas Worship Service at Tsukuba Gakuen Church (behind the gas station across from Daiei) will be held Christmas Sunday afternoon (Dec. 24th) at 2:00 pm., followed by refreshments in the Christian Center next door. The regular 10:30 a.m. Japanese service (which is translated into English and Korean over earphones every Sunday) will be followed by a Christmas luncheon with lots of good food. Visitors are welcome. Also, there will be a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service Dec. 24th at 6:00 p.m. featuring a well trained choir (joined by a not-so-well trained everybody else on the Hallelujah Chorus). It will be followed by Christmas caroling at several locations. For more information, call Tim Boyle at 55-1907.
If you are a bit homesick for Christmas lights (or if you come from a country where that isn't such a tradition, and just want to see them), the Tsukuba Christian Center/YMCA is decorated with thousands of colored bulbs, including lighted angels, etc. There will also be an "open house" every evening from Dec. 17th through 21st from 6 to 9 pm with various goodies and drinks prepared for those who would like to come and experience a little of the Christmas spirit. On Friday and Saturday night (22nd, 23rd), there will be a special "Merry Old Christmas Dessert Theatre" with professional actors performing "Christmas Past", a trio of short plays on the Christmas spirit. (See events page for detailed information). On Christmas Eve, the open house will begin immediately following the candlelight service. On Sat. Dec. 16, there will be an international Christmas dinner at the Tsukuba Christian Center that is open to all. Turkey will be provided, but a side dish to add to the "pot luck" food would be appreciated.
The Tsukuba Catholic Church in Matsushiro has the following schedule for Christmas Eve Sunday: Children's Mass at 10:30 am, Christmas Past mini-dramas (English) at 12:00 noon, Spanish Mass 3:00 pm, Japanese Mass 7:00 pm, English Midnight Mass 11:00 pm. On Christmas Day, there is a Japanese mass at 10:00 am. After each mass, there will be a social gathering in the parish hall. New Year's Eve Day masses are 8:00am in English, 10:00am in Japanese (with English summary) and 12 midnight mass of Peace and Justice. New Year's Day 10 am NMass for Holy Mary, the Mother of God. For information, call Father Narita at 36-1723.
The Nozomi Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tsuchiura (Komatsu 3-23-27) also has special holiday programs, including the following: There will be a bilingual Christmas Eve service at 4:30 pm. The New Year's Eve Day service is bilingual at 10:30 am followed by a fellowship meeting at 8 pm. The church is also beautifully decorated with lights and a nativity scene that is well worth seeing. It is located a little over 1 km south of Tsuchiura Station on the edge of a steep hill overlooking the city. For further information, call Glenn Hieb at (0298) 21-3578.
The Tsuchiura Christian Church has the following activities: A special children's Christmas program including a Christmas movie will be held Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m. The traditional caroling party will be held Dec. 24th from 6:30 pm., and a bilingual Christmas service will be held on 12/24 at 10:30 am. For more information, contact Paul or Faith Axton at 56-2167.
Tsuchiura Megumi Church will feature a children's Christmas program at 1:30 pm on Sunday, Dec. 18. Their choir will be giving a mini-concert at the Creo Shopping Center (between Jusco and Seibu) at 3 pm. on Dec. 23rd (a national holiday). There will be an English service at 9 am featuring the Taproot Theatre actors doing "Christmas Past" followed by the regular Christmas service (with English translation) at the usual hour of 10:30am. This will be followed by a special Christmas pot-luck luncheon. Their candlelight service on Christmas eve will begin at 6 pm. There will also be a special New Year's Day service at 11 am, and on Jan. 7 (10:30 am), a Chinese dissident who was one of the leaders of the Tenanmon uprising will be giving his testimony.
"Baha no Mori" (Bach Grove), located at Tokodai 2-7-9 (tel. 47-8696), will celebrate the Christmas/ Holiday season with several different activities. The "Baha no Mori" Community Center will be hosting a Christmas Exhibition, featuring Christmas dolls from around the world, reproductions of famous paintings and a multimedia slide presentation of the Christmas story. This special program runs through Dec. 25 from 1:30 - 4:30 pm, and costs ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for children (closed Dec. 17-18). The program on Dec. 24 & 25 also features short organ concerts during the program. On Dec. 17, there is a special organ and hand bell concert called "Christmas Fantasy" combined with a visual show on slides of a Christmas story. This special performance requires reservations and tickets cost ¥2500.
If it's the secular shopping hoopla that you miss, you'll love getting yourself trampled while checking out the seasonal offerings at the department stores. The real stampede, however, is in Tokyo, and for merry masochistic madness, a half-day at Akihabara is unsurpassed as pure holiday in"SANTA"ty!.
Christmas cakes have become a Japanese tradition as well established as New Year's "omochi". Our advice, however, is to go easy on these white, strawberry-topped concoctions, sweet enough to give Santa diabetes. You may well be invited to one or more "bonenkai" (forget-the-year parties), where you will be enticed to down enough beer and "sake" to make you forget not only the year, but your name and how to get home. While we naively hope for sobriety in this season, we realize that there will be some plastered gaijin here and there. If you end up being one, don't drive! The Tsukuba gendarmes (police) are lurking in wait to lift your driver's license.
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