Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Days Leading Up to Halloween

I've never celebrated Halloween for more then a couple of days, usually handing out candy and then going to one or two weekend parties. This year, I felt like I celebrated Halloween for the entire month of October.

It all started on October first, when I went to my Jr. High School's pumpkin festival. In Japan, it's very difficult to find large pumpkins. Last year, some of the English teachers had to go to the Cost-co in Osaka and convince the store to sell them a display pumpkin. So, I was really excited when I heard about the pumpkin festival.

Teachers, parents, and children of all ages came to the festival, which was held in the school gym. Some of the pumpkins were huge and a little different from American pumpkins. These pumpkins are usually given to farm animals to eat. Many of them were green and the seeds had a thicker shell. In the grocery store, very small grapefruit size dark green pumpkins are sold and eaten. It's rare to see a large pumpkin. The local farmer gave me 3 large pumpkins to carve at school, and for community Halloween parties.
There were games such as drawing a face on a pumpkin, a pumpkin relay race, guessing how much a pumpkin weighs, storytelling, taiko drumming and bingo.
The following week after the pumpkin festival, I gave a small presentation on Halloween to the Junior High School students. We showed the students the Charlie Brown Halloween TV show. Many of my students love Snoopy, but I don't think they've ever seen the animation. I was thinking it must be strange to love the characters and to have all this Snoopy stuff but not know the character's personalities. For example, Lucy seems so cute, but she's a bully. You would never guess that by looking at a pencil case or stickers. This is probably the same in America with some Japanese characters.

Anyway, I invited students to watch me carve a pumpkin after school. Many students and teachers know what a jack-o-lantern is but they have never seen a real one. Yuge-sensei put together an awesome display in the school entrance all week and even lit a candle.
My first day at one of my elementary schools, I noticed a huge pumpkin in the lobby. So, I asked if the school wanted me to give a pumpkin carving demonstration. It turns out the 4th grade class (the one that gave a cultural presentation to me in my previous post), had grown this gigantic pumpkin in the school garden. The kids were really excited to watch me carve it. They were so surprised to see me handling this knife and chopping into their beautiful vegetable. They kept yelling at me "gambatte" over and over again...which pretty much means keep going, good luck, keep your chin up, etc... It was so cute and awesome!
Throughout the month of October, the English teachers in my building worked on planning for a Halloween Party which would be held on October 28th at our residence. Julian and I worked on planning for his school's Halloween Party on October 29th. I also had planned to help Masae with her Halloween party on October 26th. Here's a picture of some of the Halloween Planning Committee at Shirasagi Residence.
My mom and brother shopped for Halloween decorations, candy, stickers and all sorts of stuff in America. So, Marc arrived in Japan with a suitcase full of Halloween goods. It was a huge help! Halloween stuff is hard to find in Japan and it's very expensive. Thank you Mom and Marc!!

To be continued.

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