I wished a colleague a Happy New Year the other day and he threw a ‘Hogmanay” back at me.
I thought most people in the west did your basic ‘Happy New Year’, granted everyone celebrates their own way..from partying till the wee hours of the morning, to watching fireworks or watching the ball drop and calling it a night, and some calling it a night way before midnight — hey I’m not judging.
But, this piqued my interest. Do people in other countries call it different things, what does Hogmanaying involve and are there peculiar things other people do to ring in the New Year?
So, I went sniffing..
As one would expect, countries in the same geographical area or with similar languages/cultures share some traditions..
In Asia —
The Indian New Year is hearkened by Diwali – the festival of lights around October or November.
The Japanese New Year is called Oshogatsu.
In Vietnam Nguyen Dan is the name for the New Year and Tet is the first morning of the year.
In the Phillipines everything in circles symbolizes wealth in the form of roundness of coins. This is represented in clothes and food.
In Bhutan it’s called Losar, comes around in February or March and the celebrations last for 2 weeks! Alcohol is an important part of the celebrations and the highlight of is archery competitions held throughout the country.
Bangladeshis call it Pehla Baisakh or bangabda. A new book of accounts is opened on this day.
Nowruz is start of the new year in Afghanishtan and comes around in spring. Festivities go for two weeks and involve traditional music and dance and Afghan feasts.
The Sri Lankan new year falls on the 13th or 14th of April and is known as Aluth Avurudhu and is recognized as the end of spring. Houses are also cleaned and whitewashed or painted to herald the new year.
Happy New Year in Chinese is Gung Hay Fat Choy and falls on a different day each year. China celebrates this for a whole month as the Spring Festival.
Europeans do it their style –
Hogmanay firstly is what Scots call the last day of the year and it is a signal to start partying for a day or two (it could end on Jan 2 which is also a bank holiday!)
Say Sylverterabend if you are in Austria.
In Belgium it is Sint Sylvester Vooranvond – a variation of the Austrian version, hailing St. Sylvester. New Year’s day is Nieuwjaarrsdag.
Poland also goes for a St. Sylvester’s Eve.
Serbia and Switzerland like to celebrate twice – on 31st December and 13th January – also known as Sylvester’s Day by the Swiss.
Many countries in Europe believe that making a big noise frightens bad spirits away and clears the way for the new year.
In this spirit, the Irish bang bread on the walls and doors of their house. The Danes take it a step further and break plates against their friends and neighbors’ front doors. Jumping off furniture in Denmark is also meant to bring one luck in the new year.
Ukraine joins Switzerland in celebrating New Years twice, calling 13 January their ‘Old New Year’. On 31st December they toast twice as well, Moscow time at 23 hours and then at the stroke of midnight.
In France, it is Jour des Etrennes – which translates to the Day of New Year’s presents.
The Czechs have an interesting tradition that after the first midnight kiss with your special someone, one can kiss anyone else they like and your spouse or partner should not be jealous!
In Finland, a unique custom is to throw molten tin into water and the figure out from the shape that forms what the future has in store for you.
Germany and Slovakia do something similar where they drop molten lead or tin in water and the solidified shape predicts the happenings of the new year for them. Most shapes have pre-defined meanings for e.g. a ball means good luck. Germans call it the Neujahr.
In Spain and Portugal people eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, one promising good luck for each month. Wearing blue slippers or underwear also symbolizes good luck in the coming year 😉
Norway does a Nyttarsbukk where children go from house to house singing songs and people give them candy, much like Halloween in the US.
Malta apparently is the place to be if you’re looking for a party destination for NYE.
Russians have a tree for New Year’s called Novogodnaya Yolka and a version of Santa Claus called Father Frost with his granddaughter Snegurochka the snow girl. The tradition of Christmas presents occurs at this time there.
In Estonia, in older times people believed that eating 7 times on New Year’s day would mean that you have ample food in the coming year.
Australia is famous for the fireworks over the Sydney Harbor Bridge which can be seen from around a 16km radius of the city center. People sometimes camp out for a day or two to be able to get a good view on the night.
Central and South America:
The color of one’s underwear is of special significance in Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela and Columbia. Yellow is believed to bring good luck and red will bring you love!
If you really want to travel in the new year, carrying a suitcase around the block at midnight may help!
In Panama, effigies of well known people are burnt signifying doing away with the year gone by.