A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way.
However, whaling remained entwined with ritual and unlike their contemporary European counterparts the early Japanese coastal whalers considered whales a valuable resource and did not over-exploit local stocks.
Domestically, Japanese writers have tried to call attention to historical whale declines due to whaling practices by other nations over hundreds of years, some of which continue today, and assert that motives and objectives of Japanese whaling customs differ from other nations.
These hunts are a source of conflict between pro- and anti-whaling countries and organizations.
The UN's International Court of Justice, in addition to other Nations, scientists, and environmental organizations consider the Japanese research program to be unnecessary and lacking scientific merit, and describe it as a thinly disguised commercial whaling operation.
When they kill whales, hunters invoke the Buddha and pray for the repose of whales' souls; they held funerals for whales, built cenotaphs for them, gave posthumous Buddhist names to them, and when a dead fetus is removed from a butchered cow, an effort is made to release it into the sea.