New Year Around the World

By smbea


People all over the world do not celebrate New Year in similar ways nor do they celebrate it at the same time. One reason for this is that people in different parts of the world use different calendars.   The Calendar Thousands of years ago, people divided time into days, months, and years. And the use of various calendars has been known for a long time. The Hindu calendar system, estimated to have begun in 1000 BC, is one of the oldest and classic calendar system. It is based on the lunar revolutions. In many civilizations, calendars were used mainly for harvesting in agriculture and to keep track of seasons. Then it extended to civic-life, government purposes and religious observances. Ancient advanced civilizations like the Egyptian, Greek and Indian civilizations used the calendar for astronomy, chronology of history, astrology and related sciences. Today calendars are used intensively in trade and commerce.


There are two major types of calendar systems: the solar calendar system and the lunar calendar system.


The solar calendar system is based on the time it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun. The lunar calendar system, on the other hand, is based on the time it takes for the moon to revolve around the earth.


The currently followed international calendar is a solar calendar, the Julian calendar with Gregorian correction, or simply the Gregorian calendar.


Under this calendar system, a year consists of twelve months, with each month consisting of a specified number of days.


Before the Gregorian calendar, there was the Roman calendar. The Gregorian calendar was a sort of refinement to the Roman calendar, which only had 304 days in a year.


The Roman calendar consisted of only ten months: Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quntilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December. The numbers still embedded in the last four months of the year are the fossil of this (September, October, November, and December, contain the Latin roots for the numerals seven, eight, nine, and ten,but now fall on the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth months of the year). The 304 days were followed by an unnamed, unnumbered period in winter. The Roman emperor Numa Pompilius (715-673 BC) introduced February and January (in that order) between December and March, increasing the length of the year to 354 or 355 days. Then in 450 BC, February was moved to its current position. The Roman calendar was eventually supplanted by the more rational Julian calendar in 46 BC.


Julius Caesar, with the help of Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes, reformed the Roman calendar into solar. He took the length of the solar year as 365.25 days. The year was divided into 12 months, all of which had either 30 or 31 days except February, which contained 28 days in common (365-day) years and 29 in every fourth year . Due to misunderstandings, the calendar was not established in smooth operation until AD 8. This calendar is known as Julian Calendar.


Sosigenes had overestimated the length of the year and by the mid-1500s, the cumulative effect of this error had shifted the dates of the seasons by about 10 days from Caesar's time. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull, drawn up by Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius, to restore the calendar to the seasonal dates of AD 325 with an adjustment of 10 days (October 4th, 1582 is to be followed by October 15th 1582) and a clause that centennial years are leap year only if divisible by 400. This came to be known as Gregorian correction to Julian calendar or simply known as Gregorian calendar.


The Gregorian correction was not immediately accepted everywhere. Most of the Roman Catholic states (Italian states, Portugal, Spain, and the German Catholic states accepted within an year) adopted the improved dating system by 1587 . Some Protestant states (the Protestant German states in 1699) embraced it around the beginning of the 18th century, but a number of others, such as Great Britain and its colonies, did in 1752. Sweden in 1753. Japan (in 1873), China (in 1912), the Soviet Union (in 1918), Greece (in 1923), to name only a few, adopted the Gregorian rules much later. A few dating systems besides the Gregorian calendar still remain in use. The Muslim calendar, for example, has been retained by most Arab countries. The traditional Hindu and Jewish calendars continue to be used for religious purposes.



Ancient New Year Festivals


  • Ancient Egypt


In ancient Egypt, New Year was celebrated at the time the River Nile flooded, which was near the end of September. The flooding of the Nile was very important because without it, the people would not have been able to grow crops in the dry desert.

At New Year, statues of the god, Amon and his wife and son were taken up the Nile by boat. Singing, dancing, and feasting was done for a month, and then the statues were taken back to the temple.


  • Babylonia


Babylonia lay in what is now the country of Iraq. Their New Year was in the Spring. During the festival, the king was stripped of his clothes and sent away, and for a few days everyone could do just what they liked. Then the king returned in a grand procession, dressed in fine robes. Then, everyone had to return to work and behave properly. Thus, each New Year, the people made a new start to their lives.


  • The Romans


For a long time the Romans celebrated New Year on the first of March. Then, in 46 BC, the Emperor Julius Caesar began a new calendar. It was the calendar that we still use today, and thus the New Year date was changed to the first day of January.
January is named after the Roman god Janus, who was always shown as having two heads. He looked back to the last year and forward to the new one.
The Roman New Year festival was called the Calends, and people decorated their homes and gave each other gifts. Slaves and their masters ate and drank together, and people could do what they wanted to for a few days.


  • The Celts


The Celts were the people who lived in Gaul, now called France, and parts of Britain before the Romans arrived there. Their New Year festival was called Samhain. It took place at the end of October, and Samhain means 'summer's end'.
At Samhain, the Celts gathered mistletoe to keep ghosts away, because they believed this was the time when the ghosts of the dead returned to haunt the living.



New Year Traditions in the World


  • Jewish New Year


The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. It is a holy time when people think of the things they have done wrong in the past, and they promise to do better in the future.
Special services are held in synagogues, and an instrument called a Shofar, which is made from a ram's horn is played. Children are given new clothes, and New Year loaves are baked and fruit is eaten to remind people of harvest time.


  • Muslim New Year


The Muslim calendar is based on the movements of the moon, so the date of New Year is eleven days earlier each year.
Iran is a Muslim country which used to be called Persia. The people celebrate New Year on March 21, and a few weeks before this date, people put grains of wheat or barley in a little dish to grow. By the time of New Year, the grains have produced shoots, and this reminds the people of spring and a new year of life.


  • Hindu New Year


Most Hindus live in India, but they don't all celebrate New Year in the same way or at the same time.
The people of West Bengal, in northern India, like to wear flowers at New Year, and they use flowers in the colors of pink, red, purple, or white. Women like to wear yellow, which is the color of Spring.
In Kerala, in southern India, mothers put food, flowers, and little gifts on a special tray. On New Year's morning, the children have to keep their eyes closed until they have been led to the tray.
In central India, orange flags are flown from buildings on New Year's Day.
In Gujarat, in western India, New Year is celebrated at the end of October, and it is celebrated at the same time as the Indian festival of Diwali. At the time of Diwali, small oil lights are lit all along the roofs of buildings.
At New Year, Hindus think particularly of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.


  • The Far East


In Vietnam, the New Year is called Tet Nguyen Dan or Tet for short. It begins between January 21 and February 19, and the exact day changes from year to year. They believe that there is a god in every home, and at the New Year this god travels to heaven. There he will say how good or bad each member of the family has been in the past year.

They used to believe that the god traveled on the back of a fish called a carp, and today, they sometimes buy a live carp, and then let it go free in a river or pond. They also believe that the first person to enter their house at New Year will bring either good or bad luck.


In Japan, New Year is celebrated on January 1, but the Japanese also keep some beliefs from their religion, which is called Shinto. To keep out evil spirits, they hang a rope of straw across the front of their houses, and this stands for happiness and good luck.
The moment the New Year begins, the Japanese people begin to laugh, and this is supposed to bring them good luck in the new year.


The Chinese New Year is celebrated some time between January 17 and February 19, at the time of the new moon, and it is called Yuan Tan. It is celebrated by Chinese people all over the world, and street processions are an exciting part of their New Year. The Festival of Lanterns is the street processions, and thousands of lanterns are used to light the way for the New Year.
The Chinese people believe that there are evil spirits around at New Year, so they let off firecrackers to frighten the spirits away. Sometimes they seal their windows and doors with paper to keep the evil spirits out.


  • New Year in the West

United States

New Year's Day processions with decorated floats and bands are a part of New Year, and football is also played all over the United States on New Year's Day.


In Europe, New Year was often a time for superstition and fortune-telling, and in some parts of Switzerland and Austria, people dress up to celebrate Saint Sylvester's Eve.
In AD 314, there was a Pope called Saint Sylvester, and people believed that he captured a terrible sea monster. It was thought that in the year 1000, this sea monster would escape and destroy the world, but since it didn't happen, the people were delighted. Since then, in parts of Austria and Switzerland, this story is remembered at New Year, and people dress up in fantastic costumes, and are called Sylvesterklauses.


In Greece, New Year's Day is also the Festival of Saint Basil. Saint Basil was famous for his kindness, and Greek children leave their shoes by the fire on New Year's Day with the hope that he will come and fill the shoes with gifts.


In Scotland, New Year is called Hogmanay, and in some villages barrels of tar are set alight and rolled through the streets. Thus, the old year is burned up and the new one allowed to enter.
Scottish people believe that the first person to enter your house in the New Year will bring good or bad luck, and it is very good luck if the visitor is a dark-haired man bringing a gift. This custom is called first-footing.
The song, Auld Lang Syne is sung at midnight on New Year's Eve, and this custom is now celebrated all over the world.


In British Columbia, Canada, there is the traditional polar bear swim. People of all ages put on their bathing suits, and plunge into the icy cold water which surrounds Vancouver during the winter.



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