As the clock strikes twelve on December 31, there is a season of celebrating new year around the world.
Even for New Year celebrations, variety adds spice as different parts of the world have their exclusive customs, traditions and rituals to welcome the New Year with zest and positivity.
The Gregorian calendar is generally accepted across the globe, and according to it, New Year commences every 365 days on January 1.
But many countries follow different New Year Calendars as part of their tradition, and celebrate their traditional New Year according to that calendar.
Americans celebrate the onset of the New Year every January 1 in style with gala celebrations and parties. Free flow of exquisite Wine and abundance of gourmet food symbolize hope for prosperity and abundance in the New Year.
Uncorking champagne, gorging on cakes, and feasting on black-eyed beans are considered lucky and festive. The best in fashion is what party-goers opt for in New Year Eve parties. Honking vehicles, paper blowers, noisy whistles, impulsive kisses are all part of the fun and gaiety.
Football tournament is telecast all across the country, and many Americans prefer to enjoy a relaxed New Years Eve watching the game with friends and family – a tradition continuing since 1916.
The most celebrated event is perhaps the “ball drop” in Times Square, New York. Since 1907, every New Year’s Eve a specially designed ball is dropped at 1159pm EST amidst cheers of millions of spectators. The fun is further enhanced by innumerous parties alongside, some even hosted by celebrities.
The capital city of Washington DC adheres to more traditional celebrations. Open House parties have been huge hit since its introduction by George Washington. Firecrackers are burnt to symbolize warding off evil and negativity.
United Kingdom welcomes the New Year in accordance with the Gregorian calendar with loud cheer, warmth of family and friends, feasting and drinking. In London, a huge crowd gathers along the Thames to enjoy the fireworks from the London Eye as the Big Ben strikes twelve officially marking the onset of a New Year. Thousands of people also assemble to party and make merry with bon-firesat Trafalgar Square and the Piccadilly Circus. Voices in unison honor the “days gone by” by singing “Auld Lang Syne”.
Another traditional custom is “First Footing”. For this, a tall, handsome dark (haired) male has to be the first visitor of a household after midnight. As a custom, he has to carry with him, a loaf of bread, a bottle of whiskey, some coal and salt. He is expected to put the coal in the fire and serve the bread and the drink to the family and wish them Happy New Year. He makes entry from the front door, and after the ritual, he has to exit from the backdoor. He is considered to bring good luck and prosperity to the household.
Traditionally, the Chinese follow the Lunar Calendar. According to it, their New Year, known as “Yuan Tan” may occur any day between mid-January and mid-February. The Chinese celebrate their New Year with much pomp and grandeur and the celebrations may continue for ten to fifteen days.
Chinese New Year celebrations are colorful and noisy – red dominates the show, while beating of drums and cymbals are believed to drive away the evil. Lion Dance and feasting take care of the entertainment. Hundreds of lanterns are lit to welcome home the positive vibes. Friends and relatives visit each other. Gift of red envelope containing money (Lai See) is exchanged as a symbol of good luck.
Since 1873, Japan has officially adopted the Gregorian calendar. Before that Japan celebrated New Year in accordance with the Chinese lunar calendar.
Japanese New Year celebrations begin on January 1 and last for a fortnight. Traditional celebrations aim at the age-old concept of out with evil and in with the good vibes.
Traditional celebrations include visiting temples to pray for the departed and for good harvest. Temple bells are rung 108 times to scare off the evil. Another ritual with the same purpose is to start laughing as the clock is about the strike midnight.
Decorative rice cakes called Mochis are made.
Japanese homes hand straw ropes at the entrance to bring in good luck. Paper lobsters adorn homes signifying endurance, while green plants and bamboo symbolize new life and honesty.
Envelopes with money are handed to children by elders.
New Year in France is known as Jour des trennes, and le Jour de I’An, and the celebrations are referred to as ‘Reveillion’. It is one of the oldest festivals of France, and is therefore an official public holiday. It is believed that feasting will bring about prosperity. As such, a special feast, called as le Rveillon de Saint-Sylvestre is planned. Families meet and greet, champagnes are uncorked, huge pompous parties are organized, as the country welcomes the New Year with food, fun, drinks, fireworks and lighting.
People in Denmark believe that if they stand on a chair and jump from it as the clock strikes twelve to welcome New Year, it would bring them luck. Another tradition is to collect dishes all the year around and throw them at the front door on the New Year’s Eve – the more the broken plates, the more friends one shall have in the New Year.
January 1 is an auspicious day for the Greeks as it also marks St. Basil’s Day since St. Basil is considered as one of the forefathers. Greek families get together to bake a special bread for the New Year. They hide a coin in the dough. The coin is believed to bring good luck.
In Spain, as the midnight strikes, it is customary to quickly eat twelve grapes, one at each strike of the clock. These are supposed to bring good luck – one grape for each of the twelve months of the New Year. In cities, people gather in the main squares and observe this custom together and celebrate with cava. Drinking and dancing all through the night is a typical form of Spanish celebration.
In Scotland, New Year is called Hogmonay. Traditional celebrations include barrels of tar to be set alight and rolled through the streets. They believe that this way the old year is burned up and the new one is allowed to enter.
In Sri Lanka, New Year is known as Aluth Avurudhu, and typically occurs in mid-April. When the old year would end and the new would year begins is astrologically determined and can occur several hours apart. Rituals include house cleaning, lighting of the hearth, herbal bathing, making auspicious dishes, and strengthening of family relationships.
Filipino families believe that round objects symbolizing coins would bring them luck and prosperity in the New Year. They heap their tables with round fruits and eat exactly twelve of them at twelve midnight. Some also wear polka dots for the occasion. Traditionally it is believed that a New Year should be started with a full wallet to be prosperous all round the coming year.
Apart from hosting some of the best beach-style parties, New Year in Brazil is welcomed with some traditional rituals. The New Year in Brazil coincides with the feast of Lemenja, the African Goddess of the Sea. On New Year’s Eve, the Copa Cabana beach in Rio de Janeiro is lit up with candles. Huge crowd gathers in the bridge and people throw offerings into the sea.
Australia celebrated New Year with parties, lighting, fireworks and feasting. Sydney Harbor is famed for hosting such celebrations. Loud, noisy, colorful and merry are what would describe Australian New Year celebrations.
The Germans drop molten lead into cold water to see what shape it takes, and predict the future, each shape symbolizing an aspect of life – love, prosperity etc. Families get together for meals at midnight with some bits left behind as good omen ensuring abundance in the coming year.
|Language||Happy New Year!|
|Afrikaans||Voorspoedige nuwe jaar|
|Arabic||Kul ‘am wa antum bikhair|
|Basque||Urte Berri on|
|Chinese (Cantonese)||Sun nien fai lok|
|Chinese (Mandarin)||Xin nian yu kuai|
|Czech||Stastny Novy Rok|
|Finnish||Onnellista uutta vuotta|
|German||Ein glückliches neues Jahr|
|Greek||Eutychismenos o kainourgios chronos|
|Hawaiian||Hauoli Makahiki hou|
|Hungarian||Boldog uj evet|
|Indonesian (Bahasa)||Selamat Tahun Baru|
|Italian||Felice Anno Nuovo or Buon anno|
|Japanese||Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu|
|Korean||Sehe Bokmanee Bateuseyo|
|Laotian (Hmong)||Nyob Zoo Xyoo Tshiab|
|Latin||Felix sit annus novus|
|Nigerian (Hausa)||Barka da sabuwar shekara|
|Norwegian||Godt Nytt År|
|Philippines (Tagalog)||Manigong Bagong Taon|
|Polish||Szczesliwego Nowego Roku|
|Romanian||La Multi Ani si Un An Nou Fericit|
|Samoan||Ia manuia le Tausaga Fou|
|Spanish||Feliz año nuevo|
|Swahili||Heri za Mwaka Mpya|
|Swedish||Gott Nytt År|
|Thai||Sawatdee Pi Mai|
|Vietnamese||Chuc mung nam moi|
|Welsh||Blwyddyn Newydd Dda|
The diversity in Indian culture can also be spotted in New Year celebrations in different parts of the country. However, most celebrations include new clothes, meeting and greeting family and friends, exchanging gifts, lighting up and decorating homes, bursting crackers, and feasting. Apart from that, regional celebrations of New Year include certain rituals typical to the area –
Punjab – Baisakhi – Joyous voices crying “Jatta aayi Baisakhi” fills up the air in Punjab as the State celebrates its New Year in the middle of April. This also celebrates harvest for the farmers of the region. Apart from bhangra dancing and colorfully decking up, celebrations also include bon fire.
Assam – Rongali Bihu – Celebrated in the month ofBohaag(middle of April), the Rongali Bihu marks the advent of the Assamese New Year and of spring in the state. Rong in Assamese mean color and gaiety. It is celebrated with Bihu songs and dances.
Bengal – Naba Barsha – Bengal celebrates New Year on the first day of the month of Baisakh which typically falls on 14th or 15th April of the Gregorian calendar. This day is considered auspicious for new beginnings. It is believed that how you spend this day will mark how you spend the rest of the year.
Tamil Nadu – Puthandu – Celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month of Chithirai, Puthandu typically falls on 14 April. A lamp is lit to eradicate darkness and auspicious sighting of things that symbolize prosperity is believed to bring about a fulfilling New Year.
Kerala – Vishu – Falling on the Malayalam month of Medam, Vishu is celebrated by worshipping deities and making offerings known as Vishukanni. It is considered auspicious to see Vishukanni the first thing in the morning.
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – Ugadi – Ugadi, literally meaning ‘New Age’ signifies New Year in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It falls on the first day of Chaitra. They believe that it is on this day that Lord Brahma started creating the Universe.
Maharashtra – Gudi Padwa – In Maharashtra, it is believed that on the first day of Chaitra Lord Brahma created the Universe. This day is therefore considered beginning of a New Year. A ‘gudi’ or banner is elevated with silk cloth and a metal pot that has swastika symbol adorned on it is placed on top. This symbolizes valor and confidence and is also reminiscent of the home coming of Lord Rama after slaying demon King Ravana.
Kashmir – Navreh – This day coincides with the first day of Chaitra according to the lunar calendar. The day finds mention in ancient scriptures of Rajtarangini and Nilamat Purana.
Orissa – Maha Vishuva Sankranti – Generally falling on April 13th or 14th, the festival is traditionally celebrated by worshipping and offering a fruit based drink called ‘pana’ to the deities.
The essence of New Year celebrations include merry making, feasting, praying and wishing for good luck and prosperity in the coming months. However, different religions have specific rituals as part of their tradition and custom to mark the occasion.
The Hindu calendar has undergone several changes since the ancient times. It generally follows a luni-solar pattern. A panchanga or panjika (almanac) is an integral part of calculating dates. As such, the beginning of the Hindu New Year falls on variant dates each year as per modern day calendar. Celebrations mark the triumph of the good over the evil. Lakshmi and Ganesh are typically worshipped as it is believed to bring luck and prosperity. People clean, decorate and light their homes, prepare sweets, buy new clothes, and visit family and friends to exchange gifts and greetings.
The Muslims follow the lunar calendar that has 354 days, because of which the Islamic or the Hijri New Year dates change from year to year.
The first day of the year is observed on the first day of Muharram which the first month in the Islamic calendar.
New Year celebration for the Muslims is a somber affair where people gather in mosques and dargahs to offer special prayers. Homage is paid to Prophet Muhammad.
An important part of the ritual is to narrate the hijra (Muhammad’s flight from Medina to Mecca). Maal Hijra or the Islamic New Year is spent on reflecting on one’s life and mortality.
Shias also enact the scenes of the Battle of Karbala in mosques. They recite sorrowful poems in the memory of the martyrdom of Imran Hussain. Many males beat their chests or walk barefoot over the burning coal to commemorate the sufferings of Hussain. Loud cries symbolize their repent at their inability to save Hussain.
In the first nine days of Muharram, an exact copy of martyr’s tomb is made with bamboo and paper. On the tenth day, processions (Ashura) are carried out through the streets lead by a horse with the beautifully embellished tombs (taziyas).
Later, charities are made to the poor.
According to the Nanakshahi calendar, the Sikh New Year begins with Chet 1 which is typically March 14 as per Gregorian calendar. Celebrations include a worship service, kirtan (devotional songs),langar (sacred free vegetarian food service), parades, gatka (dancing with wooden swords), martial arts demonstrations, and fireworks displays.
Christians celebrate New Year with devotion and gaiety on January 1 in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. The festivities begin a day before on the New Year’s Eve as friends and family gather to welcome the New Year as the clock strikes midnight. Devoted Christians begin the New Years Day early with church services. Choirs sing traditional New Year songs. New Year resolutionsare made. Fun and festivity that began the day before continues as people attend parties, balls and family get-togethers.
Buddhist New Year is derived from the Luni-solar calendar that varies from one country to the other. The Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans celebrate their New Year anytime between mid January and mid-February, while Tibetans celebrate theirs in March, and residents of Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, and Lao celebrate in April.
Buddhist New Year celebration is dominated by regional customs and culture. Some countries have a day-long celebration, while others prolong it to multiple days. However, there are some common traditions. The most common of them is the spirit of happiness, merriment and splendor.
The Buddhists visit monasteries, bath Buddha statues, light up candles and pray before Lord Buddha and other mighty deities. Food is offered to monks. Devotional songs are sung praising the Buddha and other deities. People wash the feet of their parents as a symbol of respect and reverence.
The Bahais observe their New Year on the day of Vernal Equinox, generally on March 21st every year. They follow a unique calendar of their own known as Badi calendar that has nineteen months each with nineteen days. This solar calendar also has provisions for an extra period of four days in a regular year, and five in case of a Leap Year, summing up to 365 or 366 days. The New Year commences from the Vernal Equinox.
The Bahais believe that a day start at sunset. As such, their New Year celebrations begin from the evening of March 20th. New clothes and a huge spread of food mark their New Year.
People also believe that throwing sprouted lentils in the running river water would supposedly carry away all the bad luck with it.
For the Jewish, the New Year is of utmost importance. The origin of it can be traced back to the holy Bible. For more than thousand years, the Jewish have celebrated their New Year on the month ofTishri, which fall in September or October according to the modern day calendar.
Jewish New Year is a high spirited socio-religious celebration that lasts for ten days. This period is known as Shabbat Shuva. It begins with Rosh Hashanah that commemorates the first two days of the festivity and ends with Yom Kippur on the tenth day.
Family and friends get together to pray before lit candles, take holy bath, recite Kiddush prayers, give charity, partake in festive meal, and wish each other health, wealth, happiness and longevity.
A unique feature of Jewish New Year celebration is blowing of Shofar (made of ram’s horn) symbolizing repentance for past sins. According to Jewish belief, God seals the fate of Man on the New Year’s Day. Those who have repented for their sins are blessed with a happy New Year.
Spring Equinox (March 21st) is celebrated as Nawruz or New Year by the Zoroastrians since it is the first day of the Zoroastrian Khorshidi (solar) year. The celebrations can be classified under four heads –
Renewal – Nawruz marks the end of a nineteen day fasting period. Just as Spring marks blooming of new life in flora, Nawruz is believed to lead to renewal of spirit, of relationships, etc. Families gather together and wait patiently as the Spring Equinox is announced on radios and television.
Spring Cleaning – Every home is given a fresh new life with a thorough cleaning and airing. This is termed as Khaneh-Tekani. Every member of the household coordinates to prepare the house for Nawruz. Seeds of sprouts are sown in earthenware such that they show signs of growth by time of Nawruz.
Feasting and Nawruz Table – No Nawruz celebration is complete unless family and friends gather around the Nawruz table in their best clothes for feasting. The Nawruz table is covered in white signifying purity. On it is laid the sacred book, a picture of Zarathushtra, mirror, candles, incense burner, bowl of water with live gold fish, the vessels containing the sprouts sown during spring cleaning, etc. The most important part of the table layout are the seven objects whose name begins with the letter “S” (seen) or “SH” (sheen).
Gifts – Elders give gifts to younger ones with their blessings.
It is perhaps safe to conclude that New Year Celebrations are the most diverse of all the celebrations across the globe.