New Year around the world

December 27, 2012 by The Co-operative Food NYEarti

Pretty much every community in the world has some kind of celebration for New Year, marking a new start, often with resolutions to do things a little differently. For us with New Year following on the heels of all that Christmas merry making our resolutions often involve a degree of cutting back, or at least a bit more exercise.

Some years are more significant than others. Moving into 2013 will be exciting enough, but do you remember the international shindigs that took place at the turn of the millennium? While most people get to see the turn of a century during their lives, I felt lucky to see in the year 2000.

The first places to see in the New Year are those islands just west of the International Date Line, on the wonderfully named Christmas Islands. The 1st of January 2013 will start when it’s still only 10 am the day before here in the UK, and the first major city to see in the New Year is Auckland, New Zealand.

While New Zealand may see the start of the New Year as we know it, the indigenous Maori population celebrate Matariki, their New Year, in late May. That may sound strange at first, but remember that it’s mid winter in New Zealand then. The harvest is in and it’s a good time to celebrate before preparing the land for the coming year. It’s not an official holiday there at the moment, but there are moves afoot to make it so.

Even in the UK New Year has only been celebrated on the first of January for less than three hundred years – before 1751 England, Wales and the British territories overseas considered 25 March to be the start of the New Year. There’s something romantic about that I think – waiting until the weather starts to get warmer again before the celebrations took place. It was Pope Gregory XIII who gave his name to the Gregorian calendar and determined that New Year would start on 1 January.

While most of the world acknowledges 1st January as a New Year there are many communities, just like the Maori with Matariki, who celebrate their religious new years at different times. Most notable of these must be the Chinese for who New Year falls between January 21st and February 21st. The Year of the Dragon will end on 9th February 2013 and as with most cultures it will be a time for cleaning out the house to welcome the new start.

The theme cleaning the evil from your house to welcome the New Year is carried through the Gujarati celebrations of Diwali, or Festival of Light, where the house is cleaned and lit to welcome the goddess Lakshmi. And for good measure, fire crackers add a bit of sparkle and chase out the demons. The five day festival of Diwali takes place between mid October and mid-November, while other Indian New Years are celebrated at different times of the year, according to their calendars, or even when the rains come such as for the Kutchi desert peoples.

The Day of Ashara, the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar is a day of reflection and prayer, and is often marked by the letting of blood. The Islamic calendar is lunar and therefore shorter than the Gregorian calendar meaning that Ashara comes slightly earlier each year.

For Jewish communities Rosh Hashanah, literally translated as The Head of the Year will be on 5 September in 2013 and it’s traditionally celebrated with honey to signify a sweet start, often eaten with slices of apple.

The cultural differences around New Year celebrations are an exciting reference to the past, and while the Gregorian calendar is used for business purposes around the world it certainly adds a touch of spice to life having a New Year in every quarter of the year somewhere in the world – imagine trying to celebrate them all!

Just a note for the purists – although the far east of Russia along the Bering Strait is closer to the date line than even the Christmas Islands, their extreme daylight savings mean that their New Year starts a bit later on the clock than their geographical position would suggest.

If you are going to be celebrating this New Year in the UK, take a look at our big New Year deals>

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