11th grade student Melgen Burciaga-Buhaya posing with Japanese fox mask (Janet Bajikijay)
11th grade student Melgen Burciaga-Buhaya posing with Japanese fox mask

Janet Bajikijay

Fox Masks: The Story Behind the Yearly Tradition

A fun, creative project to celebrate the New Year in Japanese class!

February 22, 2023

Most, if not all, students that have taken Mr. Russell’s Japanese class, are familiar with the fox mask activity. Even students that have never taken the class are familiar with it–that’s how much of a reputation this fun activity has. In this article, we take a deeper look at this interesting learning opportunity that happens in Mr. Russell’s class.

How the Tradition Began:

Mr. Russell shared the surprising story of where the tradition began, explaining that a former student of his, Amir Abdelah who is now in the Air Force, actually came up with the idea in 2016-2017. He was inspired by what Mr. Russell taught about Japanese new year and the tradition to wear fox masks for good luck in parades and other celebrations. Amir bought four masks on his own and decorated two of them, leaving the other two for his friends and classmates to complete. It was a hit with students, so the idea took root. 

The Makings of the Fox Masks 

So how long does it take to make a fox mask? Well, it depends on design therefore it can take from 1 week to 3 weeks. Both middle schoolers and high schoolers get to do this fun project. Students have complete creative freedom when choosing their design. For example, some students choose to do an animal outline for the easy route. An example of a harder mask is a student once using makeup to design it and to make her mask, which was very out of the ordinary and very creative. She used something she loved and put it in the making of her mask. 

Which were the Best Fox Masks? 

In the past, during parent-teacher conferences many masks would be displayed on a table for parents, family members, teachers and any other person could take view. Whichever masks got the most attention, were labeled as the favorites or best ones. This was Mr. Russell’s  voting system, not too serious but a way to see what other people’s opinions and likes were towards a variety of masks. 

In all this new years tradition has resulted in a lot of unique and creative masks! And has really grown from the original four to now a huge collection that Mr. Russell keeps!

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