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By Marina Kondo

With Halloween just behind us, the year is rapidly coming to an end. Coming from America, I noticed a significant difference in the way some holidays are celebrated in these two cultures. Here is a brief look at the way two holidays are celebrated in the northeastern part of the United States.

Halloween

The celebration of “All Hallows Eve,” as the Americans know it, begins the night of October 30. Children around the age of fourteen ~ eighteen roam around the streets with all sorts of “weapons” to vandalize the neighborhood houses. Toilet paper and “silly string” are used to demolish the trees and bushes, while raw eggs are the perfect weapon of choice to throw at windows and doors. Extremist may go as far as putting shaving cream in mailboxes, imagining the reaction of the residents who will blindly reach in to grab the mail the next morning.

Students gathering in the gymnasium during lunch time to watch the costume contest. Photo by author.

Students gathering in the gymnasium during lunch time to watch the costume contest. Photo by author.

The celebration continues throughout the next day, when students of all ages are allowed to, and almost obligated to, wear costumes to school. Months ahead of this day, friends coordinate costumes together to become superheroes or zombie kittens or whatever is popular that year. Classes are attended in costumes as teacher themselves come dressed in some of the most creative apparel. The frenzy continues into lunch when the best costumes in the entire school gather to impress and dominate the votes as costumes contests are held in cafeterias and gymnasiums. After school is a time for the younger children to take a trip around town “trick-or-treating,” going door-to-door collecting treats. Meanwhile, older adolescents have the option of going trick-or-treating or going to a house party to celebrate the night. Halloween spirit isn’t contained in one day, as parties and celebrations are also held on the weekend before or after the holiday.

Personally, Halloween is one of the most important holidays that requires every adult, adolescent, and child to celebrate, bringing the whole neighborhood together. Celebrating my first Halloween in Japan, I found it to be a bit of a disappointment but also interesting. The lack of interest by many elders and by even some of the younger generations makes Halloween a secluded holiday, celebrated by only a minority. Yet, I was intrigued to see that minority take the Halloween celebration out onto the streets of towns such as Shibuya at night. In a way, it was exciting to see that even on the other side of the world, Halloween still brings people together.

New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day

Quite the opposite of Halloween, New Year’s Eve is only celebrated the day of. To be more specific, the celebration for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day combined only occurs from the night of the 31st to the morning of the 1st. Many spend the night at parties decorated with glitter, sparklers, and other shiny party favors. Around the New York area, it is custom to watch Time Square’s “New Year’s Eve Ball Drop” on television. The massive, illuminated ball is slowly lowered in the last seconds of the year until it finally reaches the bottom with the arrival of the new year. Just as the ball hits bottom, it is also tradition for couples to kiss each other to welcome another blissful year together.

But unlike Japan, the celebration ends the next day, as everyone begins to dread work and school on the 2nd. New Year’s Day does not hold a historical or cultural significance in America as it does in Japan, so I’ve always been fascinated by the traditional Japanese customs during this time of year.

Marina is a first-year PEAK student at the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo. 

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