Happy New Year

2009

Happy New Year

New Year traditions and celebrations vary enormously across the globe. This is perfectly illustrated by countries in Asia. China and India for example are among many countries who celebrate New Year on dates other than January 1, which has been widely used since the official adoption of the Gregorian calendar from 1582. As in the other continents, Asian New Year celebrations reflect a huge range of cultural and religious differences.

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year, occurs every year on the new moon of the first lunar month. The exact date can fall any time between January 21 and February 21 (inclusive) of the Gregorian Calendar. In the Chinese lunar calendar, following a twelve year cycle, each of the 12 years is named after an animal. Lord Buddha asked all the animals to come to him before he left the earth. Only 12 animals came to wish him farewell, and as a reward Buddha named a year after each one.

New Year is a very important Chinese celebration. Chinese families travel far and wide to be together. In fact, Chinese New Year leads to the biggest movement of people on any one day during specific dates in the year. People carry lanterns and join in a huge parade led by a silk dragon, the Chinese symbol of strength. According to legend, the dragon hibernates most of the year, so people throw firecrackers to keep the dragon awake. 2019 will be the year of the pig.

The Balinese New Year, based on the Saka Calendar is called Nyepi, and it falls on Bali’s

Lunar New Year (around March). It is a day of silence, fasting, and meditation; observed from 6am until 6am the next morning. Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt. Although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets, and the only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth.

In Thailand, a special three-day water festival on April 13–15 marks Songkran, the Buddhists’ celebration of the New Year. Parades feature huge statues of Buddha that spray water on passers-by. In small villages, young people throw water at each other for fun. People also release fish into rivers as an act of kindness. During Songkran, people tie strings around each other’s wrists to show their respect. The strings are supposed to be left on until they fall off naturally.

Europeans of course are no different when it comes to unique New Year traditions. For Italians, new beginning means getting away from everything old and useless, so on New Year’s Eve they throw out of the window their old furniture or other discarded things, like old clothes or dishes. So, if you ever want to spend the holiday there, be careful while walking on the streets, especially in the south, where this tradition is particularly popular.