Happy New Year!
We’re looking ahead to Twenty, Twenty Three which is knocking on our doors. Soon, we will be leaving this year behind and embarking on a new one. Here at Naturally Sheepskins, we love a bit of culture – and the end of the year has got us thinking – how do other countries bring in the New Year?
New Year festivals are celebrated worldwide and often centre around ‘good fortune’ traditions. Whilst many countries consider 1st January to be the first day of their new year (Georgian Calendar), others do not. The Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year begins between the end of January and the middle of February. It is really quite interesting to think that the ‘new year mark’ is celebrated at different times around the world in various religions and cultures.
If you’ve been lucky enough to watch New Year firework displays, they can be pretty spectacular, especially in large cities. In more recent times, drones have been used to create moving images in the night sky. By using artificial intelligence, these drones can be choreographed to create displays with lettering – for example ‘Happy New Year’ can be projected in enormous letters for all to see. New Year displays began many years ago as fireworks were thought to ward off evil spirits for the year ahead. The fiery bangs and the loud noises were believed to deter ‘the bad’ as well as create incredible spectacles.
Close to home, in Scotland, many people celebrate something called ‘Hogmanay’. This festival begins on 31st December and lasts for two to three days. The etymology of the word ‘Hogmanay’ has been long-debated. One school of thought is that the French word ‘hoginane’ which translates as ‘gala day’ is believed to have inspired the name for the festival. Mary Queen of Scots spent some time in France during her reign and she returned to Scotland in 1561. One theory is that she most likely coined the phrase of ‘Hogmanay’ on her return to her homeland. Scots enjoy many traditions to this day during their New Year celebrations. They partake in something called ‘first footing’ where people visit friends and family to be the first person in their house after the first stroke of midnight. Some arrive with gifts for the household whereas others stick to the incredibly old tradition of arriving with a piece of coal. This is to signify their wish for the household to remain warm in the coming winter months.
In Japan, the New Year celebration is called Shōgatsu or Oshōgatsu. This is the Japanese holiday which begins on 1st January and ends on 3rd January. On New Year’s Eve, one can hear temple bells ringing in Japan – but for a very specific 108 times. Eight rings are to show out the old year and the remaining one hundred bells are used to ring in the New Year. Shrines or local temples are visited during this time and Japanese people ask for the coming year to be prosperous and filled with good health – for themselves, family and friends. Additionally, another tradition is for the people to wake up early on New Year’s Day in order to watch the first sunrise.
On New Year’s Eve in Spain, the Spanish believe that eating a grape on each time the clock strikes midnight will bring you good fortune for the year ahead. Due to the good weather in Spain, many people celebrate in the open air, in big crowds, in the ‘plazas’ (town squares) which can make for some interesting coughing and spluttering when trying to quickly eat twelve grapes.
In some places in South America, people can sometimes be seen carrying an empty suitcase around with them at New Year’s Eve parties. This is symbolise their wishes for a new year that will be full of adventure!
Romanian children can sometimes be found playing dress up in bear costumes and dancing at New Year. In Romania, bears are believed to ward off evil spirits so there presence at New Year is essential.
Some South Africans celebrate the coming of the New Year by creating space in their houses. Old, unwanted pieces of furniture are literally thrown out of their windows in order to symbolise a fresh beginning when embarking on a new year.
The New Year Water Festival in Thailand is also a sight to behold. It is called Songkran and runs in accordance with the Buddhist calendar. This National Holiday begins on the 13th April and usually lasts for three whole days. Water plays a significant role in the festival of Songkran because it washes away the previous year so the New Year can start afresh. Families visit Buddhist temples and pour water over statues of Buddha. This is thought to symbolise purification and good fortune. Thai people also partake in cleaning their homes and public spaces in readiness for the coming year. Street parties are also commonplace – often with adults and children alike enjoying giant water fights!
The final tradition that we found blows our minds a little bit. In Siberia, some brave souls get involved with the tradition of diving into a frozen lake or body of water. Amazingly, some folk have taken this to the extreme and challenged themselves to plant a ‘yolka’ (type of everygreen tree) at the bottom of the icy cold lake. Having spent some time recently on a photo shoot in the snow, we cannot imagine partaking in an activity as cold as this one!
However you are choosing to bring in the New Year come 31st December, we hope that you have a blast and 2023 is a healthy, happy and prosperous one for you. As Avina Celeste, the famous writer, once said, “Enter this new year with a gratitude for this new chance to create your dreams.”