Shawn recently wrote me, "You page states there are about 2% Christians in Japan. Is there a presence of the Christmas holiday, or is it basically reserved to those 2%???"

Yes, non-Christian Japanese celebrate Christmas as well, though there is no Christmas holiday (*). However, Christmas has, as you might expect, almost no religious meaning, but it is only another good occasion and excuse for a party with friends, a romantic night with partners or an additional gift from parents. Santa Claus must come a long way to Japan for good children :-)
Christmas eve-eve, December 23, is incidentally our national holiday, because it is the birthday of our Emperor !

Christmas or Xmas is in Japan a sort of fashion as well as a good commercial opportunity. I presume that Christmas, at least in its present form as a quasi national event for the general public, came from the US after the Second World War. When I was studying in Germany, I discovered that Sankt Nikolaus (German name for Santa Claus) and his gifts for children originally had nothing to do with the birthday of Jesus Christ, and was very surprised.

Anyhow, the American way of life was an ideal every Japanese hankered for. Firstly through movies then later through TV, Japanese came to know that well-built Americans lived in large houses with cars, fridges, TVs and various other modern household appliances or tools, many of which were then still beyond our imagination. Their children were somewhat naughty but nice, cute and neatly dressed. And those ideal American families celebrated Christmas in a rich atmosphere.
Why shouldn't we?

In the 1950s Christmas became a symbol of the good, luxury and modern life. But, as far as I recall, Christmas was at the beginning less for families than for businessmen. We have traditional year-end parties to forget unhappy events of the year ("bohnen-kai"), and it seems that Christmas parties were mixed up with year-end parties. Anyhow, till the Oil Shock, Christmas parties were pompously celebrated among businessmen and office mates and home parties were rather simple. At the Christmas season many drunken businessmen were singing Christmas songs loudly and tottering on the street.

The Oil Shock in 1973 changed this situation. Because of depression businessmen could not continue their Christmas parties. Instead, home parties became trendy. I guess that Santa Claus became very busy in Japan since 1970s.
A department store already started its Xmas sales campaign.
In the 1980s Christmas gradually turned to be an occasion for young couples to have special events and for young people to have their private parties. At the same time Christmas came to offer more and more business chances for retail and service industries. It was said at the peak of the bubble economy that a good boy must invest a lot for Christmas (exactly speaking Christmas eve) date with his girlfriend; a good car ( possibly rent a BMW 700 series), reservation of a table at a luxury Italian restaurant and also reservation of a first
class city hotel room for a night ... in total a poor boy had to throw away nearly US$ 2 thousand for Christmas. I hope such a ridiculous story has already disappeared.

Anyhow, my 8 years old daughter is now singing "holy night" and waiting for a present from Santa Claus. She stood up early last Sunday and decorated her little Christmas tree.