Believe it or not, major portions of the world don’t ring in the New Year with champagne, noisemakers, and hangovers. Most major ethnic groups in India, for example, have their own New Year’s celebrations; most of them take place from mid-January onward (the Chinese New Year, too, generally takes place in early January). Here’s a list of global New Year celebrations which, while they’re different from our own, are no less joyful and affirming.
Hijri New Year
For Muslims, the New Year falls on the day that marks the beginning of a new Islamic calendar year. The first month of this year is known as Muharram, the second-most sacred month in the Islamic calendar behind Ramadan. Unlike the Ramadan, however, there aren’t usually big celebratory meals or colorful decorations hung in public squares in Muslim countries. Instead, the Islamic new year is a quiet celebration of prayer and reflection. The always flashy city of Dubai, with its new year’s fireworks display (pictured above), is a clear exception.
The date is known as the Hijri New Year because it commemorates the beginning of the Hijra – the prophet Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D. Since the Islamic calendar begins from this date and is based on a lunar schedule, the Islamic new year never falls on the same days according to the Gregorian calendar; next year it falls on November 4/5 in the Islamic year 1435.
Indian New Year(s)
Hinduism is a religion that spans a plethora of cultures in India and its environs, each with independent calendars and varying dates for the celebration of New Year’s Day. Like the Islamic calendar, many of these calendars are based on the lunar schedule and thus the start of the new year changes annually. As a general rule of thumb, however, most of the Hindu New Year dates fall between the Gregorian months of March and April.
But those are just generalities. The Tamil New Year (Varsha Pirappu), the Zodiac New Year (Vishu) and the Bengali New Year (Naba Barsha) all consistently fall on April 13 or 14, and the Hindu Vikram New Year observed in Gujarat is the day after Diwali (pictured above).
The Chinese New Year is known as Spring Festival in China – pretty appropriate, seeing as it marks the end of winter. It’s the longest, most important festival on the Chinese calendar and as such is celebrated anywhere in the world that has a significant Chinese population: Singapore, Taiwan, Chinatowns all over the globe, etc. It’s on another lunar calendar, so expect the dates to change year to year (it’s February 10th in 2013).
As evidenced by the intricate paper dragons one imagines when they think of the Chinese New Year, this is a holiday when people go all-out. Huge feasts the night before, wads of cash spent on presents, countless decorations hung around homes with words like “happiness,” “wealth” and “prosperity” written on them – the list of Spring Festival indulgences goes on. Perhaps the most interesting traditions of the Chinese New Year are the cleansing of the home (ridding away any leftover ill-fortune from the previous year to prepare for luck in the coming one) and the the overarching theme of reconciliation (forgetting past grudges and sincerely wishing peace and love for everyone).
Literally translated from Hebrew as “head of the year,” Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and the first of the High Holy Days. It’s a two-day celebration that begins on the first of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which falls in early Autumn (the next celebration is September 4-6, 2013). They say it’s the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, but as heathens, we’ll just have to take their word for that.
Rosh Hashanah traditions include praying (it’s a religious holiday, after all), blowing on a ram’s horn known as a shofar, and eating foods like apples dipped in honey and pomegranates to symbolize a “sweet” new year.
Want to wish your Jewish friends a happy new year next Rosh Hashanah? Give them a hearty “Shanah Tovah” – “Have a good year” in Hebrew.