Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | December 31, 2010

Are Your New Year’s Plans a Bust ?

Consider how the rest of the world celebrates the coming of a New Year?



When: April 13, 2011

What: Songkran, or the water festival. Water symbolizes renewal in Thai culture.

How: People dress in traditional clothes and perform the Rot Naam Dam Hau. In this ceremony, younger family members pay respects to their elders by sprinkling scented water on their hands and seek forgiveness for wrongs done during the past year. In the streets, people splash water on everybody in sight. Charitable acts are performed to earn good karma for the new year.



When: Feb. 3, 2011

What: Seollal, the Korean New Year, generally falls on the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice, the same as the Chinese New Year.

How: Koreans clean their houses and worship their ancestors. They eat ttokkuk, a special rice cake soup served only on this day. One’s age is reckoned by the number of ttokkuk bowls eaten in a lifetime. So, the joke goes, if you don’t eat your ttokkuk on New Year’s, you stay the same age as the year before


When: March 5, 2011

What: Losar. It’s a time to turn over a new leaf by offering prayers to the Buddha.

How: Prayer flags are hung from rooftops. Tsampa, or roasted barley flour, is thrown into the air to honour the Buddha. On the eve, the family eats a dumpling soup called gutuk. Only the soup is eaten; the dumplings are opened up like fortune cookies. What’s inside – stone, chili, salt, wool, coal or pepper – is indicative of the coming year. If you get a dumpling filled with salt, the year will be pleasant; if it’s coal, the year will be bad.


When: Sept. 12, 2011

What: Enkutatash celebrates the end of the rainy season and the blooming of yellow daisies called maskal.

How: On the eve, people whirl torches to drive out the old year and usher in the new one. In the morning, they bathe away the troubles of the past year in the river and sit down to a family feast, followed by a coffee ceremony that takes two to three hours because the beverage is prepared traditionally over live coals. Children pick flowers from the fields and offer bouquets to the households they visit. They are, in turn, given coins or bread.


When: Nov. 26, 2011

What: Hijra. This is the first day of the month of Muharram, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar after Ramadan. It commemorates the flight of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina in A.D. 622.

How: Shias, who constitute about two-thirds of the Muslim population in Iraq, celebrate the first 10 days of Muharram as Ashura to mark the massacre of the Prophet’s grandson, Hussain, and his companions. The Prophet’s family is of utmost importance in the Shia faith. Street processions, with the devout dressed in black and beating their chests as a sign of mourning, are common.


When: Sept. 29, 2011

What: Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of the Hebrew calendar, the oldest in use.

How: Jewish people renew their commitment to their faith on this day. The observance starts on the eve with a family gathering and the recitation of a blessing called the kiddush. People eat apples dipped in honey to have a sweet new year and a circular challah bread to represent the yearly cycle. Nuts are avoided because the Hebrew word for “nut” sounds like the word for “sin.”


When: March 21, 2011

What: Nowruz, the Persian New Year, celebrated in Iran, parts of Afghanistan and India. This was originally a Zoroastrian spring festival, which is why some fundamentalist Muslims have tried to suppress it. It was banned in Afghanistan during Taliban rule, from 1996 to 2001. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, several ayotallahs in Iran have opposed it.

How: Iran’s most important festival is a time of family gatherings and visits. The dinner table is traditionally set with the “haft sin” or seven symbolic ingredients that start with ‘s’ in Farsi: wheat sprouts for rebirth,wheat pudding for prosperity, dried oleaster fruit for love, garlic for health, apples for beauty, vinegar for patience and sumac for joy. Today, items such as coins, decorated eggs and rose water are included.


When: Jan. 14, 2011

What: The Orthodox Christian New Year. Malanka is celebrated on the eve. It symbolizes spring being released from the clutches of winter.

How: On Malanka night, Ukrainians dress in costume and go from house to house playing pranks such as hiding things or trapping young women into dancing with them until they get sweets or money. Revellers down barrels of beer to make merry before the solemn Lenten period. The celebrations come to a close at sunset with a feast.


When: Oct. 26, 2011

What: Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Celebrated all over India – but it marks the beginning of the financial year in the northwestern region, notably Maharashtra and Gujarat. The northeastern and southern regions celebrate their new year in April, as does Punjab.

How: Lamps and fireworks are lit on the eve. In the morning, people have a ritual bath, dress in colourful new clothes, avoiding inauspicious black, and go to the temple. Business people close their old accounts and place their new books in front of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, for her blessings. Sugary sweets laden with ghee (clarified butter) such as ladoo and halwa are given to friends and family.


When: Feb. 3, 2011

What: Chinese New Year, which runs on a cycle of 12 years, each represented by an animal. This is the year of the white metal rabbit, which symbolizes peace and diplomacy.

How: Almost all the rituals are designed to bring prosperity and keep misfortune away. The family dinner on the eve usually consists of fish, which sounds like “surplus” in Mandarin. Married couples give red money packets – the colour of luck – to unmarried people to earn blessings for their union. Dancers in lion or dragon costumes are hired to perform in front of homes and businesses to ward off bad luck.


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