For billions around the world, the Gregorian calendar, which was created in 1582, serves as the timekeeper for New Years celebrations, especially in New York at Times Square. Depending on the language you speak and the culture you come from, you may celebrate New Year’s Eve in very different ways.
Let’s consider some notable exceptions to the rule. You see, not every culture celebrates the New Year on January 1. Three obvious cases include the Chinese, Islamic, and Jewish cultures.
The traditional Chinese New Year, (年节, Nián Jié, literally “Festival of the Year”), or Spring Festival (春节, Chūnjié), follows a lunar calendar, which can be celebrated during late January to early February. While China adopted the western calendar in 1912, the celebration of the traditional Chinese New Year is a proud and world-renown tradition.
For Muslims around the world, the Hijri New Year (رأس السنة الهجرية or Raʼs as-Sanah al-Hijrīyah) is the first day of Muharram (مُحَرَّم). It too is based on the lunar calendar. Because of this, the first day of the Muslim year can vary widely when correlated to the western Gregorian calendar, anywhere between September to December.
For Jews, the Jewish New Year is רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה, or Rosh Hashanah. Note the similarity to the Arabic name. Because of the religious traditions of Rosh Hashanah, when Israelis want to celebrate a secular New Year’s Eve along with others, the evening is called Yom Silvester.
This comes from the Christian tradition of having a feast day for the 4th Century Saint Sylvester on December 31st. This tradition is still followed in places in Europe, which is why New Year’s Eve in Germany is still called Silvester.
Returning to the celebrations of the turning of the Gregorian calendar, there are many ways to say “Happy New Year” around the world, from “Hauoli Makahiki hou!” in Hawaii to “Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!” in Wales.
Lastly, since everyone sings Burns’ immortal Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight, let’s look at Scotland. Did you know that to wish someone “Happy New Year” in Scottish, you’d say “Canty Hogmanay!” The origins of the word Hogmanay are now obscured, yet the tradition of “first-footing” across a threshold of a friend, bearing gifts and well-wishes, remains alive and well.
So, how do you say “Happy New Year?” And how do you commemorate the turning of the calendar?