Assuming you're one of the many foreigners who will be stuck in your home away from home during the holidays, please read on. If you are one of the "lucky" ones to have your pricy reservations for a trip home, then Bon Voyage!
Imagine that you're pushing your shopping cart down the aisle at Seibu, 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 (English) Christmas Worship Service at Tsukuba Gakuen Church (behind the gas station a half block up from the Epocal Convention Center) will be held on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 22nd at 2:30 pm., followed by refreshments in the Christian Center next door. Earlier in the day, the 10:30 a.m. Japanese service (which is translated into English 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 7:00 p.m. featuring a well-trained choir. It will be followed by Christmas caroling at several locations. Another event of interest to parents of younger children will be a church school Christmas party with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 2 pm. This will be followed by the annual Christmas dinner for the international community at 6 pm. Turkey is provided, but you are asked to bring a dish or drink to share. There is also a free organ concert on the 15th at 4 pm. For more information, call 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. There will also be an "open house" every evening from Dec. 20th through 24th 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 Christmas Eve, the open house will begin immediately following the candlelight service.
The Tsukuba Catholic Church in Matsushiro has the following Christmas/New Year's season schedule for the international community: Saturday, Dec. 21 at 10 am, Children's International Christmas Mass and party; Sunday, Dec. 22, the regular 8 am English mass (same as every Sunday); Christmas Eve Mass 7:00 pm (Japanese). On Christmas Day, there is a Japanese Mass at 10:00 am. A New Year's Eve International Mass begins at 10 pm, and a New Year's Day Mass in Japanese begins at 10 am. 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: Christmas Sunday will be held Dec. 22 10:30, with a children's Christmas program on the 23rd at 2 pm. There will be a Christmas Eve service at 7:00 pm followed by a potluck. The New Year's Day service is at 2:00 pm. All activities are bilingual, English and Japanese. 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 bilingual Christmas service will be held on Dec. 22 at 10:30 am followed by a pot luck dinner at 12:00. For more information, contact Paul or Faith Axton at 56-2167. Tsuchiura Megumi Church, located near the junction of Tsuchiura-Gakuen Sen and the 6-go Bypass will have two Christmas services on Dec. 22 at 9 am, 10:45 am, with an evening service at 6 pm The Christmas Eve candlelight service on the 24th begins at 7 pm. For further information, call 22-2244. There is also a free flute concert on Sat. Dec. 7 at 2 pm. The Assemblies of God church will feature a Christmas program on the 15th at 10:30 am that will be followed by a pot-luck dinner at 1 pm. Activities at this church are mostly in English (with Japanese translation over headphones). For further information, call Pastor Tony Shreffler at 57-9006.
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 day at Akihabara or Harajuku 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 police are lurking in wait to lift your driver's license.
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