It is traditional to greet the New Year at midnight and then celebrate at least the first few minutes in the company of friends and family.
People around the world celebrate the start of a new year in different ways. New Year festivals are among the oldest and most universally observed. They generally include rites and ceremonies which are expressive of mortification, purgation, invigoration and jubilation over the renewal of life. In some countries, parties are thrown on New Year’s Eve which last until the early hours of New Year’s Day. It is traditional to greet the New Year at midnight and then celebrate at least the first few minutes in the company of friends and family. Many people make New Year resolutions…a list of decisions about how they will live during the coming year, which may or may not be kept.
Armenia. The ancient Armenians celebrated the coming of the New Year on March 21, the date being the first day of the spring and also the birthday of the mythical God Vahagn, in whom the pagan Armenians believed about 10 thousand years ago. On this day the Armenians prepared huge feasts to welcome and celebrate the zenith of the nature. During the 18th century, January 1 was accepted as a beginning of the New Year.
Australia. In Australia they celebrate the New Year on January 1. This day is a public holiday and many people have picnics and camp out on the beach. They have parties that start on December 31 and at midnight they start to make noise with whistles and rattles, car horns and church bells. In Australia New Year is a day for outdoor activities such as rodeos, picnic races and surf carnivals.
Brazil.In Brazil the lentil is believed to signify wealth, so on the first day of the New Year they serve lentil soup or lentils and rice. In Brazil on New Year’s Eve priestesses of the local macumba voodoo cult dress in blue skirts and white blouses for a ceremony dedicated to the goddess of water, Yemanja. A sacrificial boat laden with flowers, candles and jewelry is pushed out to sea from Brazil’s famous Ipenama beach in Rio de Janeiro.
China. The Chinese New Year “Yuan Tan” takes place between January 21 and February 20. The exact date is fixed by the lunar calendar, in which a new moon marks the beginning of each new month.For many families, it is a time for feasting, visiting relatives and friends, but in the city a spectacular procession takes place. The celebrations are based on bringing luck, health, happiness, and wealth till the next year. They clean their houses to rid them of lasts year’s bad luck before the celebrations begin.There are street parades where thousands of people line the streets to watch the procession of floats in the New Year parade. Dancing dragons and lions weave their way through the crowded streets. The dragon is associated with longevity and wealth. Inside the costumes are 50 dancers, twisting and turning the dragon’s long silk body and blinking eyes.
Burma. In Burma (also Myanmar) there is a three day New Year festival called Maha Thingyan, which is celebrated with prayers, fasting and fun. During the festivities, buildings and temples are washed, and people throw water over each other. This is partly to welcome the heavy rains of the coming monsoon season. The Burmese New Year festival is held to celebrate the New Year, by performing meritorious deeds and spraying one another with Thingyan water. The Burmese New Year, which is based on the Fixed Zodiac system, falls on or around April 16. Thingyan means change.
India. The Indian New Year festival is called Diwali and is a festival of lights. The festival is celebrated differently in the various districts of India. The Hindus of the north, Diwali is the end of the old year and the start of the new. For three days in late October early November every town and village shines and glows with thousands of lights. Their homes are decorated with little oil lamps known as diwa. These little lights are found in temples, houses, along window ledges and along garden paths. In cities electrical lights are used to light up buildings. These are used to drive out evil and is replace evil with goodness. People try to finish of any uncompleted work as Diwali marks the end of the year. Businesses pay of all debts and new account books are blessed before the New Year. It is a time for new beginnings. People buy new things such as things for their homes or new tools, or even new clothes those who can afford to.
Germany. In Germany people would drop molten lead into cold water and try to tell the future from the shape it made. A heart or ring shape meant a wedding, a ship a journey, and a pig plenty of food in the year ahead. People also would leave a bit of every food eaten on New Year’s Eve on their plate until after Midnight as a way of ensuring a well-stocked larder. Carp was included as it was thought to bring wealth.
Japan. The Japanese New Year Oshogatsu is an important time for family celebrations, when all the shops, factories and offices are closed. The Japanese celebrate the New Year on January 1, but they also keep their beliefs from Shinto their religion. To keep out evil spirits, they hang a rope of straw across the front of their houses, which stands for happiness and good luck. When the New Year begins, the Japanese people begin to laugh, and this is supposed to bring them good luck in the New Year. In Japan, temple bells usher out the old year, and then comes the joyano-kane which is the “night-watch bell”, this is a series of exactly 108 peals. These, it is said, free the faithful from the 108 “earthly desires” lambasted in the Buddhist canon. The ringing of the bell 108 times is done to free the year form evil. For those who follow the Shinto religion the house is decorated with evergreen s which are the symbol for eternal life and bamboo which is the symbol for honesty. The Japanese New year begins on January 1 and lasts for two weeks. These two weeks are full of hatsu, portentous “firsts”, all to be favored with acute awareness and a sense of the bittersweet nature of first-time-ness.
Israel. The Jewish New Year Festival is called Rosh Hashanah. The date varies each year, as they have their own calendar which is lunisolar in nature. The New Year is on the first two days of the seventh month, this was done so that the farmers could visit Jerusalem before the winter rains came. The first ten days of this month are the most holiest. Tradition speaks of a symbolic book in heaven which was said to have records of those who did good and bad deeds and on Rosh Hashanah all people must account to God for their behavior during the past year. However, all people are given ten days before the New Year and the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur to show they are sorry for any wrong doings they may have done. They undo all wrong doings by performing good deeds and by thinking about how to live a better life in the future. If they are sincere, God was supposed to forgive them and on Yom Kippur he sets down and foretells each person’s fate for the next year in the book. He will write them down for a good year. They send each other cards with the traditional message “May you be written down for a good year.” They exchange the same greetings the day before Rosh Hashanah, when they attend prayers at the synagogue before returning to their homes for a special New Year Eve meal. The New Year’s Eve dinner has, festival candles which are lit and the table is decorated with fresh fruit of the season, especially grapes. Other foods that are served are bread known as Challah, honey cake and honey jar as well as fresh fruits. Fish is also served as it symbolizes fruitfulness and plenty. A special service is held on New Year, which ends in the blowing of the shofar. During the service, 100 separate notes may be blown on the shofar. This is the most important ritual to the people who are too ill to attend the service try to find someone to come to their place and blow the shofar for them.At the end of the ten days the period ends with a repentance culminating on Yom Kippur with a 24 hour fast which ends at sunset with a final note on the shofar, signifying the closing of the Book of Life.
Poland. In Poland New Year’s Eve is known as St Sylvester’s Eve. This name according to legends arose from Pope Sylvester I, who was supposed to have imprisoned a dragon called Leviathan who was supposed to be able to escape on the first day of the year 1000, devour the land and the people, and was supposed to have set fire to the heavens. On New Year’s Day, when the world did not come to an end, there was great rejoicing and from then on this day was called St Sylvester’s Eve.
Scotland. The Scottish New Year is known as Hogmanay and both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were also known as Daft Days. The first Monday in January is a holiday and is referred to as Handsel Monday. In Scotland New Year’s Eve is called Hogomanay or Night of the Candle. Foods such as three cornered biscuits called Hogmanays are eaten. Other foods that are special at this time of year are wine, cordials, cheese, bread, shortbread, oatcake, currant loaf and scones. After sunset people are known to collect juniper and water to purify the home. The Scots prepare for the New Year by cleaning their houses. This was believed to have been a purification ritual. They would perform a ritual of burning juniper branches which they carried throughout the house so as to remove any lurking germs and diseases. The food they would eat at New Year was Haggis, shortbread, scones, oatmeal cakes, cheese, whisky and wine as well as traditional New Year black buns.
Netherlands. In the Netherlands people burn Christmas trees on street bonfires and let off fireworks to ring in the New Year and as a way of driving out the spirits of the old year.
South Africa. In South Africa people ring in the New Year with church bells ringing and gunshots being fired. For those in the Cape Province New Year’s Day and Second New Year’s Day are full of a carnival atmosphere as there are carnivals where people dress in colorful costumes and dance in streets to the sound of drums.
Switzerland. In Switzerland people celebrate Old Sylvester’s Day on Jan 13 according to the Julian calendar. People go through the streets dressed in costumes and hats representing good and evil spirits. They believe good luck comes from letting a drop of cream land on the floor New Year’s Day. This was said to bring a year of overflowing abundance.
Vietnam. The more popular name for the Vietnamese New Year is Tet, where as the formal name is Nguyen-dan. Tet is a very important festival because it provides one of the few breaks in the agricultural year, as it falls between the harvesting of the crops and the sowing of the new crops. The Vietnamese prepare well in advance for the New Year by cleaning their houses, polishing their copper and silverware and paying off all their debts. They observe the custom of the kitchen god tao for a week before the New Year, they believe there are three gods represented by the three legs of the cooking equipment used in the kitchen. The middle god is a woman the other two are her husbands. It was once customary to provide the gods with a carp on which to travel. The carp represents the second last stage in the process by which animals are gradually transformed into dragons. They buy the carp from the market, bring it home and place it in a bucket of water to place at the altar of the house before it is later set free. A special rice pudding is eaten at New Year which must be prepared beforehand. The rice pudding is known as banh Chung or banh Tet. The pudding contains mung beans and pork. New Year foods such as preserved sweets, beef, chicken, fish, oranges, coconuts, grapefruits and other seasonal fruits, especially watermelon. Watermelon is considered lucky because the flesh is red, so the choice of the melon must be taken carefully so as to find one rich in color. The seeds are often dyed red also and served as delicacies. The last day of the year a plant such as the bamboo tree is planted in the courtyard of their homes. They decorate the tree with bells, flowers, and red streamers. The decorations are not for decorative purposes but are to guard the family against evil spirits.
How New Year is said around the world:
Armenian: Shnorhavor Amanor
Brazilian: Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo means “Good Parties and Happy New Year”
Chinese: Chu Shen Tan
Czechoslavakia: Scastny Novy Rok
Dutch: Gullukkig Niuw Jaar
German: Prosit Neujahr
Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
French: Bonne Annee
Arabic: Kul ‘aam u antum salimoun
Greek: Eftecheezmaenos o Kaenooryos hronos
Hebrew: L’Shannah Tovah Tikatevu Hindi: Niya Saa Moobaarak
Irish (Gaelic): Bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit
Italian: Buon Capodanno
Khmer: Sua Sdei tfnam tmei
Laotian: Sabai dee pee mai
Polish: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo