New Year’s Eve
In many places people stay up late to see the old year out and the new year in. Almost everywhere in the world church bells ring, horns toot, whistles blow, sirens shriek. London’s Trafalgar Square and New York City’s Times Square swarm with crowds of happy, noisy people. The hullabaloo expresses people’s high spirits at holiday time.
Chinese New Year
Many Chinese children dress in new clothes to celebrate the Chinese New Year. People carry lanterns and join in a huge parade led by a silk dragon, the Chinese symbol of strength. According to legend, the dragon hibernates most of the year, so people throw firecrackers to keep the dragon awake.
12 Lucky Animals: In the Chinese lunar calendar each of the 12 years is named after an animal. According to Legend, Lord Buddha asked all the animals to come to him before he left the earth. Only 12 animals came to wish him farewell, and as a reward Buddha named a year after each one. The Year of the Rabbit is 1999, and 2000 will be the Year of the Dragon.
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur
In September or October, Jews believe that God opens the Book of Life for 10 days, starting with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). During these days, the holiest in the Jewish year, Jews try to atone for any wrongdoing and to forgive others. A ram’s horn trumpet, known as the shofar, is blown before and during Rosh Hashanah and at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.
In Thailand, a special three–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 other’s 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.
New Year History
Ancient Greeks began their new year with the new moon after June 21. Before the time of Julius Caesar the Roman new year started on March 1. In most European countries during the Middle Ages the new year began on March 25, the day of the Feast of the Annunciation.
More New Year Traditions
- Indonesia also has two New Year celebrations — the official one on January 1 and another on the Islamic New Year, whose date varies from year to year.
- The Russian Orthodox Church observes the New Year according to the Julian calendar, which places the day on January 14.
- In Vietnam the new year usually begins in February.
- Iran celebrates New Year’s Day on March 21.
- Each of the religious groups in India has its own date for the beginning of the year. One Hindu New Year, Baisakhi, comes sometime in April or May.
- The people in Morocco observe the beginning of the year on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year.
- The Koreans celebrate their New Year the first three days in January.
Photograph: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP