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Japanese Stay Home This Christmas, Mostly Due to Economic Downturn With PM-Christmas Sales,

December 24, 1991

Japanese Stay Home This Christmas, Mostly Due to Economic Downturn With PM-Christmas Sales, Bjt

TOKYO (AP) _ Christmas in this non-Christian nation used to be another excuse for workers to get smashed in the name of social obligation, or the big night for lovers splurging on an expensive dinner and hotel.

This year, trend watchers say, the party’s at home, brought on in part by the economic slowdown.

Potluck gatherings, Christmas clothing such as red mini-skirts and veranda lights are in the air this year. Even the Christmas trees are bigger, growing from the usual tiny foot-high trees to six-footers, retailers say.

″The common standard that city restaurants and plush hotels are the trendiest places to spend Christmas is breaking down this year,″ the national Asahi newspaper said.

Many youths are trying to celebrate the season in their own way, ″rather than going to the places recommended in magazines like everyone else,″ it reported.

That’s a big shift for a mostly Buddhist and Shintoist nation whose past treatment of the holiday has centered around gift-hawking commercialism and rowdy drinking sprees.

Studies by the Seiyu supermarket chain show an increase in ″families who enjoy parties at home,″ said the chain’s Hiroshi Nada. One study showed that 85 percent of 600 housewives surveyed gave Christmas parties, spending $75 to $150 on the event.

A similar tendency was detected among the young. A study of 219 shoppers, ages 18 to 32, at the Seibu department store found that although restaurant outings were still favored by one-third of the respondents, one-fifth said they planned to attend a party at a home.

This year’s economic slowdown has put a damper on spending. But retailers prefer to say the trend mainly reflects a greater emphasis on family life.

According to a Seiyu pamphlet, the proper father can no longer hop around the glitzy Ginza on Christmas Eve, only to totter home with a purchased ″decoration cake″ donned with candied Santas to wipe away his guilt.

Wearing a big smile, he must toast with champagne his family and friends at home.

The pamphlet urges families to throw potluck parties, and gives instructions on what to cook. Because turkeys are too big for the average oven, roast chicken, meatloaf and a fir-shaped salad are recommended.

It also gives ideas for decorations, like lighting up your veranda, as well as telling moms to wear scarves and dads to wear casual sweaters with Christmas patterns.

″After about three years of going to fancy places, it’s natural to get bored,″ said Yumiko Mizuta, 32, who works for the Christmas-goods section at a Seibu store in Tokyo.

Mariko Iida, 40, says she enjoys making ornaments for potluck parties she gives at home.

Even youth-oriented magazines that touted the dinner-and-hotel glitz are turning to features on how to do a home party. Retailers say sales of party decorations, including Christmas trees, ornaments, candles and wreaths are climbing. Cuddly stuffed animals and jewelry are high on the gift list.

The Santa costume - including a red mini for women - has been a particular hit.

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