It’s New Year’s Day 2015. Hooray! Except in some parts of the world it isn’t. Take China for instance. In the world’s manufacturing powerhouse they don’t use the gregorian calendar. With that in mind, we thought it would be fun to look at how different cultures celebrate New Year.
It might not be the perfect read if you’re nursing a hangover after a heavy night (maybe at one of the hotspots we mentioned), but if you’re at a loose end this New Year’s Day you might find yourself asking the questions: Why is it called Hogmany? What is First footing? and what is Auld Lang Syne all about?
New Year’s Day is the first day of the year. But it isn’t on the same day the world over. Fair enough – it is the same in most countries these days (those who have adopted the Gregorian calendar that we’re all familiar with), but over in China, Israel and India they also celebrate New Year’s at different – more traditional – times. Two bites at the New Year cherry, so to speak. For the Chinese the traditional New Year depends on the Moon. The new moon of the first lunar month which – being less than exact – falls somewhere between 21st Jan and 21st February. In many south-asian countries New Year is celebrated some time during April – usually between 13th & 15th. That happens to coincide with spring – which actually makes sense if you take the ‘New’ part of new year more literally.
Some crazy customs and cultures…
In Argentina people eat beans (perhaps inspired by Jack and the Beanstalk), whilst in Spain they consume 12 grapes, but in Germany it’s a small marzipan pig – and all these foodstuffs are eaten for luck. Over in Greece they’re hanging onions on their door – in a sign of rebirth for the new year – and (you’ve guessed it) luck. But it’s the Estonians who gorge the most. They eat between 7, 9 and 12 meals in one night, believing that they’ll gain the strength of the same number of men as the meals they can eat.
We call it crazy, but it’s no more crazy than half the stuff we do here in the UK. So, in celebration of the fact that in 2014 56% of Scots decided that being part of the UK was still the way to go, we’ll take a closer look at how they celebrate New Year north of the border – and let’s face it – they do seem to do the whole thing better than anyone.
Yup, our Scottish cousins love the changing of the year so much they even have their own word for it. Hogmanay is the Scots name for the 31st December and it marks the beginning of a party that can last for 2 days.
It’s widely thought that the roots of Hogmanay are in the Norse celebrations of the Winter Solstice, similar Gaelic festivals and Viking Yule. But there are lots of rituals that are part of Hogmanay that have developed since.
Redding the House
Or, readying the house as we’d say da’an Saaf – is a general clean up of the home to ready it for the New Year. In lots of cultures we wait until Spring for the traditional spring clean – but just before New Year is not a bad time to do it.
Second up, First Footing
You might have heard the phrase First Footing. The First Footer is the first person to enter a dwelling on New Years day – and they’re supposed to bring luck (we’re sure we’re not the only ones who have notice that the concept of luck seems to play a big part in New years celebrations?).
Now, what that means in reality is that – unless you live close to and are good friends with your neighbours – someone in the house has to go outside before midnight and then come back in. To get the most out of your New Years’ luck it is recommended that it be the biggest bloke with the darkest hair.
Don’t Forget Old Acquaintance… Auld Lang Syne
When the clock chimes midnight it’s traditional that everyone breaks into a rendition of Auld Lang Syne. But what are the origins of the song and what does it mean?
The words were penned by one Robert Burns – the famous Scot’s poet who gets his own celebration on his Birthday on 25th January – and put to the tune of a traditional English folk round.
Loosely translated Auld Lang Syne means (for the sake) of Old times. It’s a celebration of the past year and a makes a ritual of passing all that has happened into memory.
But what about Beijing we hear you ask?
In our introduction we mentioned China, but let’s save that one up for when they celebrate their New Year – which is late in 2015 and will take place on Friday 19th February.