Posts Tagged ‘Customs and Traditions’

New Year Traditions Around the World

New year in Kiev [CC BY-SA 3.0 tov_tob Wikimedia Commons]

New Year in Kiev [CC BY-SA 3.0 tov_tob Wikimedia Commons]

New Year’s (Jan. 1) is the most widely celebrated public holiday around the world, and in addition to staying up till midnight and partying with family and friends, many countries have their own unique traditions and customs to mark this holiday. Here are our top ten favorite New Year holiday traditions from around the world. Find more in the Holiday sections of CultureGrams World and Kids Editions.

1. Colombia

Colombians wear yellow underwear on New Year’s because they believe it will bring good fortune.

2. Guinea-Bissau

A common traditional belief encourages Bissau-Guineans to take a bath right at midnight in the New Year in order to cleanse one’s self of bad luck and pass into the new year with a fresh start.

3. Czech Republic

Czechs exchange small marzipan candies or paper cards in the shape of pigs for good luck in the new year.

4. Ecuador

Some superstitious New Year rituals include burning and jumping over the año viejo ( an effigy, literally meaning “old year”) for good luck, eating 12 raisins to ask for 12 wishes for the new year, wearing red underwear for good luck in love, and running around the block with an empty suitcase in hopes of travel opportunities in the new year.

5. Spain 

The Spanish wait for midnight and watch New Year’s television programming to see the clock strike 12; with each stroke, each person eats a grape.

6. Japan

The Japanese visit shrines and relatives during this time. Children receive money from their parents or grandparents. Families put up special decorations and eat special foods, such as mochi (pounded sticky rice).

7. Tonga

On New Year’s Eve, Tongans typically attend a midnight church service. Afterward, church groups proceed to the palace, where they greet and present gifts to the king. People also pay visits to family members and close friends, exchanging kisses to welcome the new year.

8. Russia

Almost every Russian family decorates a fir tree a week or two before the holiday and decorates it with glass balls, toys, and garlands. Underneath the tree, families place a figure of Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz). Russians traditionally exchange and eat mandarin oranges on New Year’s Day.

9. Bulgaria

On New Year’s Day, Bulgarian children go door-to-door, wishing good fortune to friends and relatives. The children carry a small decorated stick (survachka) which is used to tap people’s backs in exchange for candy and money.

10. Philippines

In the Philippines, everyone watches a fireworks display in town plazas or parks at midnight. Fireworks displays are traditionally thought to banish the bad spirits of the previous year.

Share some of your traditions with us. We would love to hear from you. Happy 2017!

New Year’s History and Traditions

New York Ushers In New Year With Celebration In Times SquareNew Year’s Eve is here, and, depending on your outlook, you might see it as the last hurrah of the holiday season or a merciful release from two months of hubbub and gluttony. Either way, here is a quick look at the origins and some of the traditions of new year celebrations via resources available in eLibrary.

The earliest commemorations of the new year go back 4,000 years to when ancient Mesopotamians held an Akitu festival near the time of the vernal equinox. Today, the Persian calendar new year, Nowruz, is still celebrated at the spring equinox in Iran and parts of the Caucasus, Central Asia and China.

In much of the world, the start of the new year is observed on January 1. This stems from widespread adoption of the Gregorian calendar., which was instituted by Pope Gregory in order to standardize the day on which Easter was celebrated.

TET Festival, Lunar New Year In VietnamAsia has many different new-year celebrations, including Thailand’s Songkran purification festival, featuring mass water fights, and Chinese New Year, a lunar-calendar event known for its lion dances and fireworks and is observed in many countries on the continent and by Chinese communities around the world. This article provides a sampling of traditional Asian new-year foods.

The traditions and beliefs associated with the New Year’s Eve and Day are seemingly endless.

In the U.S., the ball drop in Times Square at midnight is the culmination of the New Year’s Eve party in New York City and for the rest of the East Coast. The ball drop has inspired other “drops” of items, including a possum drop in North Carolina. After the ball descends, there is often singing of Auld Lang Syne, the lyrics for which are attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns, and lots of kissing, a tradition that is traced back to the ancient Romans and their Saturnalia and winter solstice festivals.

Since New Year’s Day is seen a chance for a new beginning, it has become customary for people to make resolutions for the coming year. Having trouble keeping promises to get in shape, work harder or be nicer? Try shooting for achievable resolutions or “unresolutions.”

There are many more New Year’s customs and superstitions to be discovered in eLibrary; just start searching. Here are some round-ups to get you started: article 1, article 2, article 3. Also, see our New Year’s Eve/Day Research Topic, which, like thousands of other RTs, can be found by typing an exact-match phrase in the eLibrary search box (note the drop-down list as you are typing) and by clicking the Browse Research Topics button below the Basic Search area.

The First Kwanzaa

(Credit: The Official Kwanzaa Web Site)

The first Kwanzaa, an African American celebration of life, was celebrated in 1966. Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years. The name comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means “first fruits of the harvest.” Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa as a way to bring African-Americans together, and emphasize the role of the family and community in African-American culture.

Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1) honors a different principle–unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. A different candle on a seven-branched candle holder (kinara) is lit each day. Three candles on the left are green; three on the right are red; and in the middle is a black candle. These three colors were important symbols in ancient Africa. Green represents the fertile land of Africa; black is for the color of the people; and red stands for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom. Along with the seven principles (nguzo saba) and the seven days of Kwanzaa, there are seven symbols that are used to represent the meaningful themes of the holiday. These seven items are arranged in an area set up as a Kwanzaa altar or table in the home. The celebration also includes the giving of gifts and a karamu, or African feast, held on December 31.

ProQuest’s SIRS Knowledge Source allows educators and students to learn more about the history and traditions of Kwanzaa by exploring resources like these:

More Cultural Than Religious, Kwanzaa Rooted in Tradition

Why We Celebrate–or Don’t Celebrate–Kwanzaa

Rooted in Africa, but Made in U.S.A.