"So many engagements called off..."
Buying a cake for Christmas is a Japanese tradition
. But these cakes have a definite expiration date — no one wants to eat Christmas cake after December 25th. And no matter how attractive a woman is, it's said, no Japanese male will want to marry her after she's 25
. Thus, "Christmas Cake" is used as a metaphor term for a woman rendered unmarriageable because she is past the freshness of her youth; roughly equivalent to "Old Maid
." It's a common trope for a character to at least be surprised that another isn't married yet by this age. Even when the writers are sympathetic to the character, nagging to marry will still come from someone, usually her parents.
A Cool Big Sis
may be one, or heading there, usually with extreme annoyance; referring to this character as Oba-san
is about as tactful as referring to someone as Ma'am
and is likely to induce a rage. Sometimes this is just a device to explain them hanging around
other characters younger than them.
On the antagonistic side, a Punch Clock Villain
is often a Christmas Cake
. She tends to be very attractive but is relegated to cake status by annoying habits. The other problem occurs if she's also stuck in an Improbably Female Cast
or any such place where men are slim pickings. The Competence Zone
might force her to hang around and even fawn over men much younger than her
Interestingly, the more unexpected the presence of the Christmas Cake
is, the more likely her being one is emphasized as being an attractive point
. If a character expresses this point in-story, he Likes Older Women
This is on its way to being a Discredited Trope
: the latest Japanese census data shows that more and more people are marrying older, with most people under 25 remaining unmarried. Many teens and young adults have never heard of the concept and many that have think it's old-fashioned. Having a character believing in the Christmas Cake concept may mark them as being likewise old-fashioned.
The Christmas Cake
trope is related to Never a Self-Made Woman
. As the Japanese-culture specific variant of Old Maid
, only Japanese examples should be listed here. Also, a woman being single and 25 years or older is not
enough to qualify for this trope, even if they are
Japanese. In order to fall under this trope, the woman must make a specific reference to the concept of "needing to have been married by a certain age" - typically by either having a complex about being older and unmarried, or making it clear that they don't believe in the concept of being "too old to marry". If the trope itself is brought up
but not in reference to any specific female characters, that counts as an example as well.
Another more modern, but no less blunt, term used in Japan is "urenokori", which is also a term for leftover unsold items in a store's inventory.
See also Grande Dame
and Maiden Aunt
for the much older Western variants. Also see My Biological Clock Is Ticking
and I Want Grandkids
. Not to be confused with Fruit Cake
. Not to be confused with being a lie
, either. Compare and contrast with Stacy's Mom
, an older character who has an excess of younger suitors.
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Anime and Manga
- Invoked in The Karate Kid Part II. Yuki-san, Miyagi's old flame, willingly decided to remain an "old maid" as she considered that it was the better alternative to being a Trophy Wife to Sato, Miyagi's Rival Turned Evil.
- Late Spring (1949), by the renowned director Yasujirō Ozu, is all about this, but a bit subverted and downplayed. The 27-year-old heroine has remained unmarried to take care of her widowed father. All her male friends and colleagues are either married or engaged. However, she's quite happy in her life. It's her family members who worry, and eventually set her up with a nice man from her university. Her dad even pretends he's about to remarry so she won't worry about him.
- In Fear and Trembling, a semi-autobiographical novel by Amélie Nothomb in which she describes her disastrous experience as a foreign Office Lady in a Japanese corporation, her immediate superior is an unmarried 29-year-old woman. It's hinted that her parents are desperate to see her get married before she turns 30 (which she doesn't).
- A western variant is deliberately invoked in The Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia Tarrabotti is considered a spinster in the alternate Victorian world the books and manga take place in, though she would still be considered rather young by modern standards.
- Until the 90s, All Japan Womens Pro Wrestling's policy was that their wrestlers had to retire at age 25. To put this in perspective, they were the last surviving women's promotion in Japan since the WWWA toured back in the 1950s up until the establishment of JWP in 1986. Nearly two generations of Japanese wrestlers did not have the option to jump to other promotions unless they were willing to leave the country.
- Muffy from the Harvest Moon series; she's always lamenting her failure with men, and in the Japanese version of Harvest Moon DS, her parents even try to arrange a marriage for her! (In the American version, they just try setting her up on a blind date.) She's also one of the available marriage candidates in Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life and Harvest Moon DS — in DS, she'll also eventually end up marrying Griffin if the player doesn't marry her, though in A Wonderful Life, she and Griffin will merely remain in a state of perpetual UST.
- Ms. Noriko Kashiwagi from Persona 4, who is immediately fingered as one of these in her introduction and later is so delusional about her looks that she competes in a high school beauty contest and genuinely acts surprised at her loss. One could say she is an Expy of Mitsuka Yoshimine.
- In the earlier Persona 2, this was deconstructed with Ulala. She not only has no man, she has no job or skills leading her to attempt to kill her best friend Maya, who is much more successful.
- The basis behind a joke in Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2, where Aguija is called an "Old Hag" by the teenaged Lune Zoldark. She takes particular offense to this, saying that she's still in her 20's. Hard-Drinking Party Girl Excellen (23) then gets into it, pointing out that all the females in their team are still younger than her, drawing a few uncomfortable laughs from Katina and Rhada, who at ages 25 and 27, are only just.
- In MX, Aqua Centrum has this stigma as she is among the oldest pilots in the game, older than her copilot Hugo by a few years and significantly older than the various pilots from series such as Gundam and Dragonar.
- Raine Sage of Tales of Symphonia isn't quite to this point yet, but she does make more than one reference to worrying about her age. All the more ridiculous because, as an elf or, rather, half-elf she'll live for about a thousand years. She can, indeed, pursue romantic involvement with the much younger main character.
- Reina Mayuzumi of Trauma Center Under The Knife 2, also The Vamp, is 35, single, and constantly tries to sex up Derek, after which Angie furiously complains that she has to be much older than she looks. Her ultimate fate is related to this trope.
- In Mitsumete Knight, becoming one is Sue's greatest fear, as she's already 22 by the beginning of the game. She wants to have a husband and have a lovey-dovey relationship with him, but can't find one because she drives away her suitors with her Well, Excuse Me, Princess! and Mood-Swinger attitudes.
- In Luminous Arc, the Garden Children talk about Vanessa in this manner, shortly before she starts a Bar Brawl with them...
- Rorona in Atelier Meruru. Rorona would have been in her 30s in Meruru, but Gust couldn't stand the thought, so they had her take a potion that turned her into an eight year old. A large portion of the fanbase was not pleased.
- Parodied in The King of Fighters XIII, as Mai gets pissed when she pretty much tricks herself into believing that Athena is calling her an "old maid" in their pre-fight chat. Poor Athena has no idea of what's going on.
- Liliana spends most of Princess Waltz pretending to be a middleschooler, yet rather pointedly asks Arata if he likes 'older women'. His mother on the other hand outright accuses her of being a cradle-snatcher.
- Lotus from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. She's graphically depicted as Ms. Fanservice, in a skimpy outfit with large, shiny assets. But the game's characters complain repeatedly about being forced to look at her "wrinkly grandma boobs". She's actually 40 years old and a divorcee with twin daughters.
- A male version is given a minor examplie in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni as a VERY brief Joke. Tomitake quips "A man becomes is more attractive at 30!", in response to Mion quipping "You like photography so much, you missed your chance to be married!"
- Chizuru in Grisaia No Rakuen ruefully admits in the afterstory that she really does need to get married soon if it's every going to happen at all, but unfortunately the only person she's shown any interest in and can meet with often is ten years younger than her, her student and her family wouldn't approve of him. However, she does have a bonus sex scene that would fit into the canon ending where Yuuji basically has a harem that has her quit worrying about appearances and just go for it.