It’s the end of December and the beginning of a shiny, brand new year, a time when most of us look back and reflect on all that was good, bad, and somewhere in between over the past year. It is a time to ponder on what we want for the new year. Time to make those resolutions and goals. But, in case you aren’t quite ready for 2019 or if you run into the new year with arms held open wide and happen to run smack-dab into the proverbial brick wall, never fear! You get a second, third or even eighth chance to start again! Yes, not all cultures ring in the new year on January 1st. Some use different lunar calendars. Here is how the world does things a little differently and how we in the western hemisphere got to where we are today:
The western world’s New Year has changed throughout history. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII established the calendar as we know it today. His new calendar, aptly named the Gregorian calendar, fixed the Julian calendars tendency to drift with respect to the equinoxes. Pope Gregory also changed the date of the new year from March 25th to January 1st.
Let’s say you didn’t celebrate on January 1st or you need another shot to start again, you can always celebrate the Chinese New Year. It’s usually celebrated in January or February (depending on the lunar calendar). In 2019 it falls on February 5th. Each calendar year has a presiding animal zodiac as well. In case you are curious, 2019 is the Year of the Pig. China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam all celebrate. Festivities include wearing the lucky color red, gifting red envelopes filled with money, setting off fireworks, and cleaning to sweep away the bad luck of the preceding year and prepare homes to receive good luck in the new.
March brings us many new year celebrations around the world! On March 14th, Puthandu, the Tamil New Year’s Day, is celebrated in Sri Lanka and Mauritius. Puthandu is a public holiday celebrated around the Vernal Equinox. Although it is not purely a religious festival, it does hold significance to Hindus as the day the Hindu god, Lord Brahma, started creation. In addition to festivals of cars and ploughing of fields, many people decorate a tray the night before with fruit, betel leaves, money, flowers and gold and silver jewelry. Seeing this ornately arranged tray first thing in the morning is said to bring you prosperity and happiness in the new year.
If that isn’t enough of a redo, you could choose to celebrate both spring and another new year on March 21st by celebrating Nowruz, The Persian New Year. It takes place in Iran on 1st Farvardin, the first month of the Persian calendar. An ancient holiday, Nowruz can be traced back 5,000 years to the Sumerian and the Babylonian civilizations. People celebrate by jumping over bonfires and exchanging gifts. Superstition says that whatever you are doing at the time of Nowruz, you will do for the rest of the year. So, if you are sleeping, you will be sleepy all year long. I say it would be a good day to win the lottery.
Perhaps you would prefer celebrating when it is a little warmer. Maybe April works for you. Why not try one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar? Called Vaisakhi or Baisakhi, the Sikh New Year festival commemorates 1699, the year Sikhism was born as a collective faith. So, on April 13th or 14th, you too can celebrate with harvest festivals, fairs, dancing, singing and processions through the streets. Though maybe you should bring some friends with you if you are dancing in the street.
Also in April, Thailand celebrates the Songkran Festival, a national holiday marking the beginning of the Thai New Year. It is a traditional Buddhist festival usually celebrated between April 13th and 16th. Known as a water festival, Songkran is celebrated by pouring water to symbolize washing away negativity, bad luck and sins from the year before. Some cities even host water fights involving water guns and water balloons. Many people also take part in Buddhist rituals by pouring water over the statues of Buddha in their homes or temples.
Myanmar also celebrates their new year in April. The Myanmar New Year is a Buddhist festival which takes place on April 17 th in 2019. The festival was started by a myth involving a wager between 2 gods. The loser had his head replaced with that of an elephant. To stop the new head from head drying up the seas or wrecking general havoc, it was taken away and given to a new princess at the beginning of each new year. Buildings and businesses close for this holiday. Like in Thailand, the Burmese wash away the old year and cleanse for the new year by tossing water on each other. Once the drenching stops each day, the merriment continues with feasts and parties.
Once summer begins, you can still celebrate a new year. On August 30th, 2019, The Islamic New Year, also known as Arabic New Year or Hijri New Year, is the day that marks the beginning of a new Islamic calendar year. For many, this holiday represents a period of self-reflection and historical awareness often including prayer and fasting.
But maybe you prefer fall-like weather for your new year. I still have you covered. The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, literally means “head of the new year.” Just like all new year celebrations, it is a both a time of rejoicing and of serious introspection, a time to celebrate the completion of another year while also taking stock of one’s life. In 2019, Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on Sunday, September 29th.
And of course, there is always January 1st!
I am sure there are some new year celebrations that I haven’t included on my list, but the point is, you still have more chances to begin again, to start anew. Always. No matter how or where or which new year you celebrate, I wish you the very best.
By Ilona Knudson