When I first came to Japan, I was surprised because, in Japan, Christmas is not a very important holiday. Likewise, Japanese may be surprised to hear that, in America, the New Year is not very important either!
In Japan the New Year last around a week and many people travel around the country to visit family and friends. In America, however, the New Year is not about family or friends at all.
New Year’s celebration is only one day, on the night of New Year’s Eve. This is usually a big party. Some people have a home party and others go to a public place and celebrate. The main event of the party is the countdown at midnight. Perhaps you know the famous countdown in Times Square New York? This countdown is broadcast on tv and many people watch. At the strike of midnight, everyone cheers out loud yelling “Happy New Year”. At the moment of the new year, couples should kiss. If you aren’t dating or married, you may be kissed by a friend or even stranger anyways! After this countdown, the party continues just as any other party. This is the end of New Year’s celebrations in America.
An interesting note about the countdown in New York is that, because America has many different time zones, in my hometown of Reno I will usually watch the countdown live at 9pm! They reair the footage again at midnight, depending on where you live.
Many people do go to parties and celebrate, but many (most?) people just stay at home. If they are awake at midnight, they might watch the countdown on TV. Otherwise it is just another day.
*Photo by Aurelien Guichard (Flickr: New York City) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/