New Year Celebrations Across The World

Different cultures around the world used the positions of sun or the moon to measure the year. Each culture has its own New Year, and different ways of celebrating the New Year! So let"s look at the different calendars and their New Year celebrations.

NewsBharati    02-Apr-2022 09:22:18 AM   
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New Year is a new canvas! Take stock of the past year and start the new-year with new hope and new enthusiasm. It is an opportunity given by nature to do better than before! Here is how one can measure a year -
new year 
Solar Year - A solar year is the time required for the Earth to go around the Sun. This period is 365.2425 days. The solar year and the seasons go hand in hand. Seasons begin on a fixed day in a solar year. In this method, one day is defined as the time from one sunrise to the next sunrise. But there is one problem; the sun looks the same every day. There is no difference between two days.
Lunar Year - A lunar year consists of 12 months of 12 full moons. The period of lunar year is 354.367 days. The advantage of the lunar calendar is that you can tell the date (Tithi) by looking at the phase of the moon, and you can tell the month based on the constellation in which the full moon rises. This calendar too has a problem. It does not go hand in hand with seasons.
Different cultures around the world used the positions of sun or the moon to measure the year. Each culture has its own New Year, and different ways of celebrating the New Year! So let's look at the different calendars and their New Year celebrations.
Islamic Calendar
Hijri is the lunar calendar of Islam. This chronology begins in the year 622 AD, when the Prophet Muhammad traveled from Mecca to Medina. This calendar has 12 months of 29/30 days. And the year consists of 355 days. Every year it falls short of 11/12 days than the Solar Year. Thus the lunar calendar has nothing to do with seasons. The Ramdaan Eid for example will fall in any season.
According to the Hijri calendar, the month begins when the new moon appears in the sky. Since it is not possible to predict whether a crescent will be visible or not, the beginning of the month cannot be predicted. Sometimes the moon is seen in a western town but not in an eastern town. Then in the West, next month starts one day earlier, even though both towns are using the same calendar.
Moharram, is the first month of the Hijri calendar. In 680 AD, at Karbala, during the first ten days of Moharram, a war broke out between two sects of Islam. The grandson of Prophet Muhammad was killed in this battle. To commemorate that occasion, there is a tradition of starting the new-year by mourning for 10 days.
Shia Muslims mourn the death of Hussain every year by self-flagellation or cutting themselves with sharp objects such as blades and knives. Muharram is a period of intense grief and mourning where people from the community gather to mark the day.
Chinese New Year
Chinese chronology began in 2697 BCE. This calendar has 12 lunar months and after every 2/3 years one extra month is added to synchronize the solar and lunar year. At the beginning of the new-year, they clean the house, decorate the house, hang pictures of deities on the doors, buy new things and put up lanterns. The family enjoys a feast on the New-Year day. Dragon Dances are also popular in China for New Year's Eve.
Mayan culture
The Maya calendar has been in use in Mexico since 2000 BC. This solar year has - 18 months of 20 days is 360 days, plus 5 days is a year of 365 days. The new year of the Maya calendar starts on 26th July. On the eve they review the past year and express their gratitude to it. The New Year celebrations thus start on the sunset on 25th July and they welcome the new day on the sunrise of 26th July.
Jewish New Year
The ancient Jewish calendar is lunar-solar. According to the Bible, God created the world in 3760 BC, which is the beginning of this calendar. With 12 lunar months in a year and 7 additional months over 19 years, synchronize the Lunar and Solar year.
The beginning of the Jewish New Year was Rosh Hashanah. The first nine days they repent for the sins committed knowingly or unknowingly. The 10th day is Yom Kippur. There is a tradition of fasting on this day. Since the Jewish day begins at sunset, New Year's prayers and fasting begin at sunset.
Egyptian New Year
The Egyptian solar calendar began in 1321 BCE. The Egyptian year has 12 months of 30 days each, plus 5 days of Sun's birthday that makes the year 365 days long. During the year 300 BC, the Greek Ptolemy suggested that one more day should be added every four years. This was not implemented in Egypt. The beginning of the new-year was on the first day of Akhet. The Egyptians carried the idols of the Amun-Ra (Sun) and his wife in a boat procession in the Nile. The New Year was celebrated for the whole month with folk dances and songs.
Parsi Navroj
The Persians had created a Solar calendar that was one of the most accurate calendars. The year had 11 months of 30 days, and the 12th month had 35 days. 1 extra month was added every 120 years to adjust the extra day of the solar year.
Parsis in India added one extra month after 120 years but the Parsis in Iran forgot it. Thus two different Persian calendars were created - Shehenshai and Kadami. In the twentieth century, the Persian calendar was modified and Fasali calendar was introduced. This one has 1 extra day every 4 years like the Gregorian calendar. The last month of the Fasali leap year is 36 days instead of 35 days. Iran uses a modern solar calendar called Solar Hijri.
The new year of the Persian calendar begins on the spring equinox, the Navroj. It is the biggest festival of the Parsis. Nowroj means new day, new light. As the day begins at sunrise, their new year begins in the morning. On Navroj they clean the house, put on new clothes, decorate the doors and windows with garlands of flowers. They go to meet friends and neighbors. The family dines together. On this day ‘Haft Seen’ means seven fruits are served. These seven objects are related to the seven planets - Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The Kurdish people in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, the Pashtun and Baloch people in Pakistan, and the Parsis in India celebrate Nowruz with great enthusiasm.
 Babylonian New Year
The year of Babylon consists of 360 days. 12 months of 30 days each and one extra month every 6 years. The calendar started in 1200 BCE. Their New Year's reception lasted for 12 days. This ceremony was called Akitu. A drama that showcased the defeat of the evil by the righteous was performed on this day. The King of Babylon prayed to the heavenly god on this day. New Year's festivities were filled with prayers, processions of God, etc.
Greek New Year
The Greek year consisted of 12 lunar months and 7 additional months spaced out over 19 years. This kept the Lunar and the Solar years synchronized. The New Year began with the appearance of the new moon, after the Summer Solstice. At the New Year, Zeus the king of the gods was offered ritual sacrifices.
Roman New Year
The Roman calendar was very complex. Its year had 10 months totaling to 304 days and 61 unnamed days of cold. Later improvements were made to add two new months - January and February. With this addition - September the 7th month became 9th, October the 8th month became 10th month, November the 9th month became 11th month and December the 10th month became the 12th!
The Roman emperor Julius Caesar was impressed by the simple and accurate calendar of Egypt. He revised the Roman calendar in 45 BC, similar to the Egyptian calendar. A year made up of 365 days; 12 months of 28 to 31 days each. This calendar included one extra day every four years. This Julian calendar was later used throughout Europe. This calendar came to India during the British rule.
In the 16th century, Pope Gregory made another revision to the calendar – he reduced three leap years from every 400 years. This calendar begins on January 1.
In this chronology, since the day begins at midnight, the New Year is welcomed at midnight. The New Year is celebrated with fireworks and New-year resolutions throughout the world.
There are many flaws in this calendar, for example, despite having a solar calendar, January 1 has nothing to do with the Sun. The names of the months have nothing to do with the sky. The number of days in a month can be - 28, 29, 30 or 31. Number of days in each quarter differ. Same calendar cannot be used for each year as dates and days of the week do not match. Different and better alternative calendars were suggested for these defects. Such as –
• 4 months of 91 days each. In leap year last month to have 92 days.
• 12 months of 30 days each. Last 5 days of vacation. 6 days vacation for leap year.
• 13 months of 28 days each. 4 weeks in each month. Every month and every year begins on Monday. A day off at the end of the year. In a leap year 2 days off.
Indian New Year
There is a lot of diversity in the calendars as with everything else in India. Some calendars are solar, while most calendars are lunar-solar. The lunar year synchronized with the solar year by adding of removing one month. In some calendars the month ends with the full moon, while in some the month ends with no-moon. Some calendars, year starts on first day of Chaitra, Vaishakh, Ashadh or Kartik month.
Many calendars are in use in India. The important ones being -
• Yugabda – The beginning of this calendar is 3102 BCE. 36 years after the Mahabharata war when the Kali Yuga started. The beginning of this year is on Chaitra Shukla 1 i.e. Gudi Padva.
• Vikram Samvat – This calendar was started by Vikramaditya, the celebrated Emperor of Ujjain. This chronology began in 57 BCE, after his victory over the Sakas. This new year begins on Kartik Shukla 1, or the Diwali Padva.
• Shalivahana Saka – This calendar was initiated by the king of Pratishthan - Gautamiputra Satkarni. This Shalivahana king started this era after he defeated the Saka in 78 AD. The beginning of this year is on Chaitra Shukla 1 i.e. Gudi Padva.
• National Calendar – This was created after independence, this is India's solar calendar. The chronology is similar to that of Shalivahan Saka that is 78 AD. The year begins on December 22, the day after the Winter Solstice. The month changes according to the sign of the sun. And so there are 30/31 days in each month. The equinoxes and solstices fall on the 1st of that month.
According to Indian thought, new day begins at sunrise. So the new-year too begins at sunrise. In Maharashtra, the New Year is celebrated by getting up early in the morning, decorating the doors of the house, drawing rangoli and erecting a gudi.
In the absence of any modern instruments, humans have made various attempts to measure the year accurately, not just by observation, but by observation carried out by many generations. The sun, the moon, the seasons, the festivals, the farming activities, the tax system - all were dependent on accurate calendars. As such, New Year's celebration is the tradition of celebrating the birthday of the calendar!
References -
• कालगणना – मोहन आपटे
• Zoroastrian Heritage - K. E. Eduljee
• Zoroastrian Calendar – Kainaz Amaria
• Mayan New Year,
• Daily News Egypt,
• China Highlights,
• Express,

Deepali Patwadkar

Deepali Patwadkar is an Author and an Artist. She writes and comments on social issues. She is also interested in the Indian studies of the history and cultures, languages, and literature and as such is a part of a subset of Asian studies.