Ways to celebrate the New Year around the world
In most places around the world, the old year ends on December 31, the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and is marked by boisterous parties to bring in the New Year. It is a common practice in the UK and the States for people to go out with friends and wait for the clock to strike midnight. When that happens, people often join together to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” which means “times gone by” and is a song that says goodbye to the previous year.
Staying up to see the New Year in is a common tradition in many Western countries. In Germany, “the best place to celebrate New Year’s Eve is Strasse des 17 Juli right in the middle of Berlin,” explains 27-year-old Holger Gabriel. “Before we go there we will eat fondue and drop molten lead into cold water to tell the future from the shape it makes.” Lead-pouring is a custom the Romans started; the molten lead serves as an oracle. If the lead takes the shape of a flower, for example, it means you will find a new friend in the upcoming year.
In nearby Belgium, where New Year’s Eve is called “Sint Sylvester Vooravond,” people celebrate in a more romantic way. “At midnight everyone kisses each other three times on the cheek and exchanges good luck greetings,” says 21-year-old Belgian Boris Barth. It is also a traditional custom in Belgium for children to write messages on decorated paper about what they wish for New Year or love about their families, then read them to their parents on New Year’s Day.
For Mexicans, New Year’s Eve is also a time for feasting with the family. We all come together and arrange small effigies of Maria, Joseph and Jesus and pray to them,” recalls 22-year-old Eliseo Velazquez Aguilar, who is studying Chinese in Beijing. “At midnight we eat grapes and make a wish for the coming year.”
In other parts of the world, however, December 31 does not necessarily mean the end of the year. In China, for instance, a New Year marks the end of winter according to the lunar calendar and is celebrated at the second new moon after the winter solstice. The Spring Festival falls on a different date every year but usually takes place between January 21 and February 21. “You finish the old year and get a chance to start afresh,” explains David Mao, 29, who works in China. Mao enjoys spending time with his family and eating jiaozi. There is a custom of hiding a coin inside one jiaozi in the pile – though nowadays it may be replaced with a piece of sugar – and the person who gets it is said to have good fortune in the coming year.
Koreans celebrate the coming of the New Year twice, on December 31 and also a month or so later at the same time as the Chinese. “The celebrations in February are more extensive and traditional,” says 23-year-old Ji-Eun Kim, who is studying in Beijing. “We will eat rice cake soup and make wishes for the New Year.”
In Japan, the lunar new year is not celebrated, and December 31 is a quiet event, where mostly families “come together for dinner,” says Englishman Casey Kan, 38, who used to live in Japan. “After that, most people start watching a music program on TV that runs three to four hours and shows popular and traditional musicians,” he recalls.
Regardless of whether you celebrate the New Year on December 31 or as the arrival of spring in January or February, either one is a wonderful time to be spent with family or friends and to look forward to the future.