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A calendar of New Year celebrations around the world

As many people gear up to celebrate the start of their New Year at the beginning of January, we take a look at how other cultures and countries mark the beginning of a new year.

Meaning ‘to move’ or ‘movement’ in Sanskrit, Songkran is a new year celebration that takes places in Thailand.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Tamsin Wressell
Published 31 Dec 2021, 06:07 GMT, Updated 31 Dec 2021, 10:04 GMT

The marking of a New Year is an age-old tradition around the world — food, fireworks and reflection with friends and family are common threads, but ultimately this varies between different calendars, religions and cultures. While the Gregorian calendar (introduced through Christianity) has mostly been skewed in the western world to take centre stage, the lunar and solar calendars are acknowledged in some celebrations, too, marking a time to take stock of the year gone and greet the year ahead with gratitude and goodwill. Here, we round up some of the ways the New Year is called in around the world.

Gregorian New Year

1 January 2022

New Year’s Day marks the first day of the Gregorian calendar, something we’ve become fairly familiar with around the world. While 25 March (named after the Roman god of war) was traditionally when New Year would be celebrated, this shifted during Roman times to January (more fittingly named after the Roman god of all beginnings). This New Year stems from Christianity and largely filtered its way around the world with many places taking on the Gregorian calendar. While making resolutions for new beginnings is customary, in more recent years New Year’s Eve has taken more of a centre stage with firework displays and parties of friends and family to see in the New Year. New York’s Times Square is a hugely popular event for people to travel to for the occasion, with more than one million people descending to see the ball drop.

Lunar New Year

1 February 2022

The exact day of the Lunar New Year changes each year — the months of the year are marked by moon cycles, so New Year is celebrated on the date of the first new moon of the Lunar calendar. This celebration is most associated with Chinese New Year in the West, but it’s widely celebrated in East Asia, with countries and cultures having their own sets of traditions. A common ritual is using this time to catch up with friends and family, with many people travelling to do so over this period. Fireworks are lit to ward away evil spirits, houses are decluttered to mark the beginning of spring and the future of a New Year, and a platter of sweets (called a Tray of Togetherness) is put out for house visitors, with all sweets carefully chosen to symbolise health, fortune and happiness. In many Chinatowns around the world, streets are closed off for parades and festivities during this holiday.

New Year’s Day marks the first day of the Gregorian calendar.

Photograph by Getty Images

Nowruz

20 March 2022

Commencing on the spring equinox to celebrate the rebirth of nature, Nowruz (meaning ‘new day’ in Farsi) marks the first month of the Iranian solar calendar, falling roughly around 21 March each year on the Gregorian calendar. Also known as Iranian or Persian New Year, it’s widely celebrated in countries across Central Asia, though millions of diasporas around the world mark the day. Poetry is recited, bonfires are leapt over and folk music is performed to mark the overcoming of sorrow and darkness, while houses are cleaned to pave a way for the future. It’s a time for family gatherings, feasts, street festivals and sports, with characteristics varying depending on where it’s celebrated.

Songkran

13-15 April 2022

Meaning ‘to move’ or ‘movement’ in Sanskrit, Songkran works with the solar calendar, marking the movement of the sun from Pisces to Aries in the zodiac. Songkran is celebrated across Thailand, with customs varying depending on the region of the country. It’s one of the most important events in the Buddhist calendar, with water being at its centre — Songkran is considered to be spiritually purifying and to wash away bad luck from the previous year. Younger people will visit older generations of their family during New Year to pour water over the elders’ hands and feet as a sign of respect, but a more commercial side of the festival sees people (including plenty of tourists) throwing water over each other in the streets, often using water guns.

Muharram

30 July-27 August 2022

Muharram marks the first month of the Islamic calendar, with the beginning of the year being celebrated on the 10th day of the month (Day of Ashura). The traditions and rituals vary for the two major sects of Islam, Shia and Sunni, though the main emphasis for most is remembrance, self-reflection and expressing gratitude. Many people around the globe celebrate the period by visiting family, attending prayer sessions at mosques and fasting on or around the Day of Ashura. This New Year is more a period of reflection and mourning — Muharram means ‘forbidden’, with fighting being prohibited during this month.

Lunar New Year is most associated with Chinese New Year in the West, but it’s widely celebrated in East Asia.

Photograph by Getty Images

Enkutatash

11 September 2022

Occurring on Meskerem 1 on the Ethiopian calendar (a solar calendar based on the Egyptian and Julian calendars, consisting of 12 months of 30 days with a 13th month of five or six days), Enkutatash translates to being celebrated on 11 September on the Gregorian calendar. Meaning ‘gift of jewels’, it’s thought that the celebration dates back some 3,000 years to a story of the Queen of Sheba returning home after a trip. Enkutatash celebrations last around a week and are mostly family centered, wit- people travelling home to mark the New Year together over meals and beer. It typically marks the end of the rainy season in Ethiopia when yellow daisies start to emerge across the countryside.

Diwali

24 October 2022

A Hindu lunar celebration, Diwali is a five-day Festival of Lights centered around starting afresh. The dates change yearly depending on the Hindu calendar, usually falling between mid-October and mid-November, taking place on amavasya (new moon), the darkest night in the Hindu calendar. There are differing customs depending on where it’s being celebrated, with various gods prayed to, but the theme of light continues throughout. People clean and decorate their homes to welcome in Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, with entry ways of coloured sand, rice paste and flowers. It’s a time for visiting neighbours and family in the lead up, with Diwali being celebrated by praying to Lakshmi, sitting down for a meal and ending with fireworks.

Rosh Hashanah

25-27 October 2022

In the Hebrew lunar month of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first and second day as Jewish New Year. Meaning ‘head of year’, this is a period of reflection, to atone for any wrongdoing throughout the year and to forgive others. A shofar (ram’s horn trumpet) is blown before and during Rosh Hashanah, plus at the end of the period, serving as a call to inspire soul-searching and growth for the year ahead. Traditions and customs vary from family to family, but symbolic foods are one of the central points for this time — pomegranate seeds, for example, are eaten for a year filled with good deeds. Much of Rosh Hashanah is spent in the synagogue or at home.

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