New Year’s lasts one night of drinks and one day of college football in the US, but in Japan the holidays lasts for three days. Actually, for many the New Year’s holidays start on December 29th, giving the typical worker a six-day holiday. In fact, for many this is the only extended holiday of any kind.
For my family, the holiday meant starting with a year-end “o-souji” 大掃除 — basically a “spring cleaning,” but in the coldest time of year. Seems odd from an American perspective, but in a way it makes sense. Especially in central Japan, where the high humidity and lack of central heating leads to mold everywhere (particularly concentrated in rooms on the north side of the house), ending the year with a good scrub is essential for surviving the rest of the winter with catching a major illness. Also, since traditionally no cleaning or cooking is done during the New Year’s Three Days, there’s a lot of food preparation to do on the 30th and 31st of December.