New Year’s Celebrations from Around the World

January’s Curiosity of the Month kicks off the New Year with an exploration of various forms of celebration around the world!

Vocabulary to share with learners:

(words are bolded throughout the post)

Ancient: This means of, coming from, or belonging to a time that was long ago in the past

Auld Lang Syne:  A song that comes from the Scottish tradition, that is usually sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve. (Translated into English, Auld Lang Syne means “days gone by”).

Intricate: This mean very detailed and fancy, having many parts.

Lavish: This means having a very rich and expensive quality.

Lion Dance: This is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture in which performers mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume to bring good luck and fortune.

Mochis: This is a Japanese rice treat.

Molten:  This means to be melted by heat.

Goddess:  This is the name for a female god.

Predict: To say that (something) will or might happen in the future.

Prosperity:  The state of being successful usually by making a lot of money.

Resolution:  A promise to yourself that you will make a serious effort to do something that you should do.

Symbolize:  This means to be a symbol of (something), or to represent an object.

Tradition:  A way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time.

As the calendar turns from December 31st to January 1st many people are celebrating the New Year. Some people wear party hats and blow horns at a big party, or watch a special fireworks display,  while other people like to sit on their couch at home and watch football games. Some people like to stay up very late to see the clock strike midnight and officially witness the very first minute of the brand new year while singing a popular song called Auld Lang Syne.

Photo by Stephen Leonardi

Celebrating a new year has been a tradition for a long time. For example, the famous Times Square ball drop has been happening in New York since 1907 and people have been making resolutions since the ancient Roman days when a well respected astronomer convinced Julius Caesar to adopt the solar year calendar.

Did you know people celebrate the New Year differently all around the world? Let’s take a quick trip to see how different countries celebrate the ending of one year and the starting of another.

Food is a special part of the New Year’s traditions in Spain. At midnight, Spaniards eat twelve grapes, one for each month of the coming year. They believe that this will help predict what lays ahead for them. For example, if the second grape is incredibly sweet, they believe that February will be a good month for them.

In the Netherlands, everyone brings their Christmas trees to a center location in town and uses them to have a big bonfire. They also launch fireworks and celebrate the incoming new year in one big fiery community celebration.

People in Japan celebrate the New Year by making a special rice treat called a Mochis and by visiting temples. They also hang intricately woven ropes made of straw in their doorways because they believe it will bring them good luck. New Years is one of the most important times in the Japanese culture and so the people take time off of work and enjoy spending their extra free time with family.

One interesting way to celebrate the new year can be seen in Denmark. There, people jump off of a chair at midnight and also throw broken dishes at their friends’ doors. It is believed that the more broken plates you have at your door, the more friends you have.

In South Africa music is a huge part of New Year’s celebrations. Many people attend concerts and enjoy dancing in the streets. In Nigeria, another country on the continent of Africa, it is popular to have a Masquerade party, where people wear masks featuring both human and animal faces. This is thought to both bring good luck and send negativity out of your life.

Germans drop molten lead into water. They believe that clues to their their future for the upcoming year can be found in the shape that forms once the lead is solid and cool. For example, round shapes are considered good luck and a cross is thought to mean sadness will be coming your way.

In Brazil they have several ways to ring in the New Year. One way is to celebrate the water goddess by filling a special boat with candles, flowers and jewelry. The boat is then pushed out into the ocean. This ritual is thought to bring people who participate prosperity, good health and also happiness.

Pigs are considered good luck for many reasons in Austria. Some people believe pigs symbolize progress, prosperity, and wealth and so they are included in New Year’s celebrations in the form of pork dishes and little candies and cookies in the shapes of pigs.

In China they celebrate the New Year a bit later than the rest of the world, and in mid-January/mid-February paint their doors red for luck and play drums and cymbals to chase away evil. They also participate in the Lion dance, exchange red envelopes of money and enjoy several days of feasting.

In Sri Lanka, New Years comes even later… in mid-April, when the first signs of spring arrive and the world seems to be reborn! The people in this country celebrate the new year by cleaning… themselves and their houses. They also make special food dishes and work hard to strengthen their family relationships. They believe these tasks will help them have a good year ahead.

So there you have it! Everyone celebrates the New Year a bit differently. No matter where you are in the world, or how you choose to spend your time, this is a special time of year. We here at Big Shared World hope you find your own meaningful way to enjoy this time and wish you all the best in 2019.

Happy New Year!

Discussion or Journal Questions

After reading about traditions around the world, which New Years tradition would you most like to participate in? Did these examples inspire you? What new idea do you have for celebrating the holiday?

Why do you think people feel it is symbolic to transition from one year to the next?

What is one resolution you’d like to make for the new year? Do you want to learn a new skill or quit a bad habit? How about trying a new food or exploring a new place? Maybe you want to join a club or give a new sport a try! Pick something and then try to stick to it!

What is one hope or wish you have for the new year?

Additional Links to Learn From:

123 New Year’s New Year Traditions

Wonderopolis: When is it okay to stay up all night?

Wonderopolis:When did the New Year’s Eve ball first drop in Times Square?

Wonderopolis: Why do people make New Year’s resolutions?

Wonderopolis: What foods bring luck in the new year?

List 25’s Strangest new year’s traditions from around the world