The year is coming to a close and it’s that time of year when we start to reflect on ourselves and the events of our lives throughout the course of the last year. We promise to be better people, to eat less and exercise more. Every year we party hard and make these same promises to ourselves that this year will be different.
It’s also a time to celebrate. Some of us celebrate the start of a new year, some celebrate the end of the prior year and some celebrate the mere fact that they made it through the last year still standing.
While we are counting down the minutes until the ball drops it’s sometimes hard to remember that the world is full of different cultures and countries. While we may all observe the same holiday, in truth, we often celebrate them at different times of the year as well in many different ways.
New Years Eve, as we celebrate here in America as well as most Christian and all European countries is always December 31st. The date is set by the Gregorian Calendar which was introduced to society in 1852. The calendar was originally reformed from the previous Roman calendar to bring the date of Easter around to the start of spring.
In the United States the most widely attended celebration is held in New York’s Times Square annually. Close to a million spectators take to the square for live concerts and entertainment followed by a midnight countdown with a huge ball drop to start the new year. This huge celebration has been taking place in New York since 1907 on radio and has been televised since 1956.
At the stroke of midnight we have grown accustomed to the sound of fireworks, champagne bottle popping and the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” which is often used to symbolize an end or new beginning. The song was originally published in 1799 by Robert Burns and was made popular as a song associated with the new year by Guy Lombardo. Lombardo was the band leader whose orchestra played the live radio and later television broadcast on New Years Eve from 1929 to 1976.
Not everyone celebrates the new year at the same time or even in the same way that we do. Let’s look at how and when a few other cultures celebrate the beginning of a new year.
Indonesia has two New Year celebrations, one on January 1 and another on the Islamic New Year.
The Russian Orthodox Church observes the New Year on January 14.
In Vietnam the new year usually begins in February.
Iran celebrates New Year’s Day on March 21.
Morocco observe the beginning of the year on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year.
Koreans celebrate their New Year the first three days in January.
Traditions around the world for celebrating the new year vary just as much as the days celebrated. In America it is traditional to have a party, eat black eyed peas, and make a resolution. How do other cultures ring in the new year?
Russia: One New Year’s custom in Russia is to write a wish for the upcoming year on a piece of paper, then to burn the paper and place the ashes in a glass of champagne, which needs to be consumed right before the New Year is rung in for the wish to come true.
Philippines: One of these is to open all doors and windows in your house on New Year’s Eve in order to allow negative energy to leave and good energy to enter.
Spain: Spanish tradition holds that eating 12 grapes just before the clock chimes midnight will bring good fortune for all 12 months of the upcoming year.
Thailand: A 3 day water festival on April 13–15 marks Songkran, the Buddhists’ celebration of the new year. Parades feature huge statues of Buddha that spray water on passersby. In small villages, young people throw water at each other for fun. People also release fish into rivers as an act of kindness. At Songkran, people tie strings around each others wrists to show their respect. A person can have as many as 25 or 30 strings on one wrist, each from a different person. The strings are supposed to be left on until they fall off naturally.
Scotland: The cannon is fired at Edinburgh Castle at the stroke of midnight, followed by a large fireworks display. Edinburgh hosts a festival of four or five days, beginning on 28 December, and lasting until New Year’s Day or January 2
For more on how and when other cultures celebrate the new year click HERE