Almost every major culture around the planet has their own calendar. Some count their days by the sun, some by the moon and the stars. Each culture has a rich historical background behind the enacting of their calendar. And each culture welcomes their year with their very own rituals and festivities. Looking from a Gregorian perspective, it seems almost astonishing to see that there are so many cultures that do not celebrate their new year’s day on January 1st. Here are a handful of different New Year’s around the world.

Chinese New Year

(Celebrated in the first week of February)

The Chinese New Year usually comes around the season of spring. That’s why, it’s often called the Spring Festival or Lunar Year. The festival signifies the beginning of the spring harvest season. The Chinese people celebrate this day by exchanging red envelopes filled with money as gifts and savoring on traditional Chinese sweet treats such as egg-filled moon cakes. Rallies displaying colorful dragons and lanterns are seen on the streets of the Cantonese countries to mark this day. In the Chinese culture, each year is marked with a symbol or mascot signifying a real or a mythical creature. They calculate it on their lunar calendar to decide which year will be represented by what creature. They believe that the year contains the qualities of the animals they are named after. For example, 2016 was marked as the Chinese Year of the Red Fire Monkey, which denotes energy, vigor, and vitality in the coming year.

Iranian New Year (Nawruz)

(Celebrated around the end of March)

The Iranian New Year, natively known as Nawruz also marks the beginning of the spring harvest. The word Nawruz means ‘New Day’, in Persian. Iranians from both Zoroastrian and Baha’i communities celebrate the commencement of spring by giving the season a loud and hearty welcome of trumpets. Rallies and carnivals with colorful decorations are arranged, and every home is given a good cleaning and decorated with colored eggs and sprouting grains to signify growth and prosperity. The day ends with a hearty warm bowl of Ash-e Reshteh noodle soup.

Sinhalese New Year (Aluth Avurudda)

(Celebrated on April 14th)

The Sinhalese New Year, locally known as Aluth Avurudda is celebrated by the people of Sri Lanka. Contrasting with other cultures, the day marks the end of the harvest season instead of the beginning of it. The day is celebrated by locals opening their front doors as a gesture of welcoming whoever comes to visit, be that friends, family, or even complete strangers. The guests are treated with refreshments of small oil cakes called kavum, and several tropical plantain dishes. The day is marked as holy and significant because apart from being the end of the harvest season, it also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka.

Marwari and Gujarati New Year’s Day (Diwali)

(Celebrated at the end of October)

Although celebrated as a religious festival among Hindus, Jains and Sikhs all over the world, Diwali marks the beginning of a new year for the Gujarati and Marwari communities in Northern India. The communities, well known as mercantile and entrepreneurial classes of Ancient India, thank Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity for the previous economic year, and pray for another good business year on this day. The celebrations normally begin at night by lighting fireworks and exchanging sweets and gifts with friends and family. Wealthy people decorate their homes with colorful patterns drawn by hand on the floors and light tiny little lamps all around the house.

Bengali New Year (Pahela Baishakh)

(Celebrated on April 14th)

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Pahela Baishakh, also known as Nobo Borsho is the beginning of the year according to the Bengali calendar. The day marks the first day of the first month of the calendar promulgated by the Mughal emperor Akbar to mark the beginning of the economic year for the tax-paying farmers of the then undivided Bengal. It is the official calendar of Bangladesh till today, and the Bengali New Year is celebrated among Bengali speaking communities of both Bangladesh and India. The day starts with a rally called Mongol Shobhajatra (March for prosperity) decorated with enormous handmade masks of owls, tigers, hilsha, and all other things that represent the Bengali culture. Bengalis dress up in Shari, Panjabi, etc. traditional clothing and welcome the New Year with traditional singing and dancing. Bengalis believe it to be a good omen to start the year with sweets. So, the household kitchens exude the aroma of traditional sweet delicacies such as Payesh, Pitha, etc. Then there are delicious rice and fish items for lunch. The day is also significant for traders and shop owners. Pahela Baishakh is Haal Khata time–an auspicious day to ‘open’ the ledger. Shops and business centers arrange for parties in the evening and formally invite their regular customers to join in. Haal Khata also means settling of all outstanding debts of the preceding year.

Islamic New Year (Raʼs as-Sanah al-Hijrīyah)

(Celebrated around the beginning of October)

Islamic calendar marks the first day of the first month of the Muslim calendar. It commemorates the immigration of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, from Mecca to Medina. The immigration is known as Hijrah in Arabic. So, the calendar is known as the Hijri calendar. The most unique thing about this New Year is that unlike other New Year’s, it does not begin with the start of the day. Rather, according to the Muslim Calendar each day begins at sunset, with the New Year itself ushered by the first sighting of the moon. The day is celebrated, although not as excitedly as Eid, among the Muslims around the world.

Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah)

(Celebrated around the beginning of October)

The Jewish community around the world commemorate the end of the seven days of Creation from the Book of Genesis with a two-day festival called the Rosh Hashanah. According to Judaism, after the creation of the universe, God was yet to determine the fate of mankind. So by maintaining a quiet observance, the Jewish people believe to allow God to determine their fate for the coming year. Honey and apple are commonly added to foods around this time. They believe that the sweetness of these signifies positivity.

Cultural diversities is what makes this world such an unpredictably interesting place. As the world becomes smaller day by day, we should enlarge our hearts to learn, accept, welcome and adapt to these differences.

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