You might not quite have your party hat on yet, or by the time you read this, the celebration might be already done, but either way, let’s start this New Year out right – by discussing the New Year around the globe! In the United States, there are various New Year traditions. Many individuals make resolutions, to which they try to adhere to for the duration of the year, and hopefully after that. Additionally, you might watch the Big Ball drop in Times Square live or on your television. It is also a custom to kiss a loved one when the clock strikes midnight, perhaps in the middle of singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Like many other holidays, New Year’s traditions are usually specific to the location in which you reside.
Most countries in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania, as well as parts of Africa and Asia use the Gregorian calendar. Then called the Roman Calendar, the months January through December were established by King Numa Pomilius in the 8th Century B.C, though it was not until February 24th, 1582 that Pope Gregory XIII signed a decree for official use of this calendar. These countries celebrate the New Year on January 1st.
Within the nations that use this form of calendar, the traditions are very diverse. For example, on January 1st in Japan, citizens have a custom of giving pocket money to children. It is handed out in small decorated envelopes called pochibukuro, which are descendants of the Chinese red packet. During the Edo period (1603-1868 A.D.) and continuing today, large stores and wealthy families give out a small bag of Mochi (rice ball) and a Mandarin orange to spread happiness all around.
There are, however, many countries in which New Years is not celebrated on January 1st. In the Baha’i Faith, as well as in Iran, the New Year, called Naw Ruz or Nowruz begins on the 21st of March. The Chinese and Vietnamese New Year usually falls toward the end of January or the beginning of February. The Thai New Year, called Songkran, is celebrated from the 13th to the 15th of April, during the hottest part of the year there. In Thailand, individuals celebrate by throwing water upon each other, and giving food and water to the resident Monks. It is probably a good thing that we in the United States do not celebrate like this in the dead of winter!
Although New Year’s Day globally contains the notion of ‘out with the old, in with the new’, the way that we portray this is very different from place to place.
May this new year bring you good health, fortune, and joy!