New Year Celebrations Around the World from The Institute for EDI

Published: Dec 30, 2022

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12/30/22: In today's post, we’re highlighting how folks around the globe celebrate the arrival of the new year and new beginnings. Is there a celebration you’d like to see highlighted? Let us know! 

African American Tradition: 

One popular New Year’s tradition in many Black American families is a special meal of collard greens and black-eyed peas eaten on December 31st or January 1st. The greens are thought to resemble money, symbolizing financial security in the new year. The peas symbolize good luck, health, and abundance.  

Hijri New Year: 

The Islamic New Year begins on the first day of the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. For 2023, that day is July 19th, 2023. In many nations in which Islam is practiced, this day is considered a public holiday.  

Lunar New Year: 

In 2023, Lunar New Year begins on January 22, 2023. Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian countries, cultures, and global communities. Called, Chùnjié (China, Mandarin), Seollal (Korea), and Tet (Vietnam), Lunar New Year is a time of feasting and honoring ancestors and begins with the first new moon and lasts until the full moon arrives. 

Rosh Hashanah: 

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, usually occurring in September or October. Rosh Hashanah is a contemplative holiday commemorating the Jewish story of the creation of the world. It begins the Days of Awe, 10 days of repentance ending with the Yom Kippur holiday.  

Nowruz Day: 

Nowruz Day marks the first day of spring in Iran and the Persian diaspora, usually around March 21st and is celebrated as the New Year. Nowruz Day includes special meals, gifts, and performances.  


Songkran celebrations in Thailand begin on April 13th and generally last 3 days. Many families will begin with a time of spring cleaning and visits to Buddhist temples where water is sprinkled over statues of Buddha. Children and young people will also pour water on the hands of elderly community members, representing respect and blessing. Outside, huge, fun, and celebratory water fights will ensue.  

Vaisakhi or Baisakhi: 

Vaisakhi or Baisakhi is an important spring festival in the Sikh calendar occurring every 13th or 14th of April. This New Year celebration commemorates the year of 1699, the founding of Sikh. Many people will visit places of worship and participate in parades in which the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book) is carried.  

Brazil (Yemanja Festival): 

The Iemanjá Festival or Yemanja Festival is an African-based festival celebrated on January 1st or February 2nd depending on the region in Brazil. Yemanja is a sea goddess/matron from the Macumba and Candomblé religions.  These religions were historically practiced by communities who were enslaved in Brazil. Today, there are a variety of sects of these religions practiced by Black Brazilian communities. In honor of Yemanja, celebrations are held. These include wearing white clothing and building small alters on the beach. Music is played and fireworks are set off at midnight from the top floors of tall buildings. The crowds will then set miniature boats and flowers into the ocean before eating and dancing all evening.  


In Ethiopia, Enkutatash, or New Year, is celebrated on September 11th or 12th to acknowledge the 1st day of Meskerem (the Ethiopian calendar). Celebrations may last an entire week. On the eve of the New Year, wooden torches are lit to symbolize the end of the rain season. Many people go to churches, give greeting cards, and exchange gifts.   

Latin America:,for%20the%20year%20to%20come

In many countries in Latin America, communities will celebrate New Year’s Eve (December 31st) with a meal and evening fireworks. Oftentimes, these meals will contain lentils- a symbol of good fortune eaten at midnight. Another fun tradition is to walk around your home or block carrying an empty suitcase if you wish to travel more in the new year.  

In Venezuela, a fun tradition includes wrapping 12 lentils in paper money to improve financial well-being. Many people in countries such as Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Paraguay will create dolls, dressed in old clothes to look like unpopular cultural figures. At midnight, these dolls will be set on fire, bringing a sense of rebirth. In Bolivia, some people participate in a sweetheart tradition by standing up and sitting down 12 times in a row. After this, one will tie a red ribbon around a picture of the person they fancy and sleep with it under their pillow. In Colombia, it is popular for people to place 12 shafts of wheat on the table, symbolizing having enough food in the new year.  


In Spain, “Las Doce Uvas de la Suerte (The 12 Lucky Grapes) is celebrated on December 31st. People will gather with a bowl of green grapes while tuning in to watch the clock tower (Real Casa de Correos) in Madrid. The bell rings four times before a quick pause. Then, a series of 12 chimes ring out, symbolizing the 12 months of the year. For each chime, each person eats one grape. If you eat all 12 grapes by the time the last chime rings, you are said to have good luck in the New Year. While this tradition originated in Spain, it is also celebrated by Hispanic communities across the world.  


In Greece, the vasilopita cake is served on New Year’s Day on January 1st to bless the home and bring good wishes into the New Year. A common tradition is to bake a coin into the dough of the cake. The cake is served from eldest to youngest and each person gets a slice. In some families, slices are cut for religious figures. Depending on the family, the person to find the coin in their slice will have special responsibilities and privileges such as hosting the New Year’s party the next year.  


In Japan, toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles) are enjoyed on December 31st. The history of this meal dates back over 800 years. Soba noodles are known to be easy to break when eating. This symbolizes “breaking off the old year.”.  Their thin, long shape represents a long and healthy life. Throughout different regions in Japan, these noodles are eaten at different times throughout the evening.  

The Philippines: 

A fun tradition on December 31st in The Philippines is finding and presenting 12 different round fruits - one representing each month of the year.  


On December 31st in many towns in Romania, children will sing a song called, “Sorcova.”. The sorcova is also a special stick decorated by the children. They will tap their parents with the sorcova, wishing for health, good luck, and sometimes receiving a monetary gift.    


 How do you celebrate this time of new beginnings? 

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