New Year Celebrations
Around The World

The new year holidays; eagerly anticipated for the whole year, and usually a large disappointment. Have you organised where to spend your New Year’s this year?

The new year holidays; eagerly anticipated for the whole year, and usually a large disappointment. Have you organised where to spend you New Year’s this year?

New Year’s is a time for being with friends and family, and celebrating the start of the new year. You want to start as you mean to go on, getting together a list of your New Year’s resolutions and attempting to gather together your friends so you can make sure to celebrate with your loved ones together.
But, just as much as the people you spend it with are important, the place you spend it in is important too.

Ever thought what New Year’s around the world is like?

Spending New Year’s abroad, or making a holiday of it, is the perfect way to make sure that you spend your New Year holidays well, and the New Year starts with a bang. You can make sure everyone is together in one space with no one backing out last minute, and you get to experience a perhaps different New Year celebration. Rather than the yearly get drunk and miss the fireworks because you’re holding back your friend’s hair in the toilets. What’s more, you can have multiple New Year’s in one year…!

Because of the different calendar years around the world, different countries and different cultures have their New Year holidays on different dates. This is because some cultures use the Lunar Calendar, some use the Solar Calendar, or like China use the Lunisolar calendar. Some culture’s New Year celebration falls on the same day every year (i.e. the Gregorian calendar on the 31st December) and some New Year holidays occur of a different day every year or over several days.

Whilst the date and culture may be different, all countries, religions, and cultures have one thing in common when it comes to New Year holidays. They celebrate.

So what does a New Year’s around the world look like?

South Korea New Year Holidays (Korean New Year)
Date: 16/02 (Korean lunar calendar)

The Korean New year falls on the 16th February this year, which is based on the Korean lunar calendar.
People will celebrate by wearing traditional costumes and eating traditional foods, such as Tteokguk. This is a traditional soup eaten every year for the new year. Give it a go!

One of the more recent rituals includes the ringing of the Boshingak Bell. This was constructed in 1396 and is only rung on New Year’s.

South Korea New Year Celebrations - Korean Lunar New Year

North Korea New Year Holidays
Date: 31/12 - 01/01

After taking a look at the South, let’s see how the North do it!

North Korea has their New Year’s celebrations like many other countries on the 31st December, moving into 1st January. And boy, do they know how to celebrate! On this day, you can expect people to start early with their drinks and celebrations, all to be topped off with some seriously impressive North Korea fireworks. These fireworks are seen best from Kim Il Sung Square in the centre of Pyongyang, surrounded by the locals all excited for the New Year’s countdown. You can make the night even better by topping it off with some North Korean karaoke and North Korean bangers!

Interestingly enough, the 16th February is an important date in North Korea, but for different reasons. It is the birthday of Kim Jong Il and a national holidays for the North Koreans. This date is celebrated usually with mass dances, special shows and exhibitions, and also the chance of fireworks!

North Korea New Year's Celebrations at Kim Il Sung Square

China New Year Holidays (Chinese New Year)
Date: 05/02-07/02

The date of the Chinese New Year holidays changes every year. This year, Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, it falls relatively late. Each year represents one of the 12 different zodiac animals. Currently, we’re in the year of the dog. 2019 will be the year of the pig.

During the Chinese New Year celebrations, people will throw firecrackers, carry lanterns, and set off fireworks. Although, in the centre of some big cities fireworks have been banned.

Chinese New Year is a time for family, much like Christmas time to Christians. People will return back to their hometowns, meaning that many cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are left deserted as people head back to the countryside.

Chinese New Year Celebrations

Tajikistan New Year (Persian New Year, Norwuz)
Date: 21/03

The Persian New Year celebrations take place in Tajikistan over a period of a few days. The first days are usually spent with family, and the rest of the days are spent with celebrations including wrestling and Buzkashi, Central Asia's most dangerous sport.

Nowruz Persian New Year in Tajikistan: Locals take part in Buzkashi

Russia New Year Holidays (Novy God)
Date: 31/12 - 01/01

The Russian New Year holidays do indeed take place on the same day as those New Year celebrations of the Gregorian calendar. But, it is a very different New Year. It is called Novy God. It came about when Christmas was removed from the calendar during the Soviet Union. It involves traditions similar to those found both at Christmas time and New Year.

On New Year’s Eve, people eat and drink, spend time with family and friends, and visit neighbours. On the morning of New Year’s, children awake to presents brought by Dec Moroz (Father Frost) - a bearded guy in a red suit. People will spend the day eating typical Russian foods such as pickles and cabbage.

Russian New Year Celebrations and Novy God

Mongolia New Year Celebrations (Mongolian Lunar New Year, Tsagaan Sar)
Date: 05/02

Tsagaan Sar literally means ‘White Moon’. It is the Mongolian Lunar New Year, and first day of the New Year according to the Lunisolar calendar. This is celebrated on the same day as Chinese New year.

These New Years celebrations are intense and extensive, lasting for a couple of days. During this time, they will visit family, wear traditional clothing, and play games.

On the day before the New Year’s Day, people will clean their houses from top to bottom, and a big Mongolian wrestling match is broadcast on television.

One of the best ways to see traditional Mongolian culture is to spend time with a Mongolian family in a traditional Mongolian tent. Or, enjoy one of Central Asia’s most dangerous sports with the locals.

Mongolian New Year Celebrations: Tsagaan Sar

More interesting and different New Year’s celebrations:

Philippines: wear clothing with polka dots/circles on them. These circles represent coins, which symbol wealth in the New Year.

Brazil & South America: in Brazil and other countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela in South America add to their New Year’s celebrations by wearing colourful underwear. Most popular are the colours red and yellow. Red represents love, and yellow represents money.

Turkey: wear red clothing to bring good luck.

Romania: people will dress up in a bear costume and go from house to house… Supposedly to kill off the evil spirits?

Japan: some Buddhist people may dress up like the zodiac animal that is the new animal in the coming New Year. They will then go to a temple.

Spain: once the clock strikes midnight, some people will eat 12 grapes. Each of the 12 grapes represents the 12 months of the year. If you eat them all within the first 12 seconds of the New Year holiday, your New Year will be filled with luck!

Denmark: just before the countdown, people will find the highest bit of ground to… literally jump into January! This is in the hope that they are leaving the bad and evil spirits behind them and jump into a New Year promising new beginnings.

Finland: some people will drop a molten tin into cold water. What’s the story behind this one? They will try and look at the shape and try to figure out the meaning of it. Kind of like reading tea leaves?

Romanian New Year Celebrations

Zoe Stephens

Zoe is the marketing manager and a tour leader at Koryo Tours.

Her love of meeting new people and exploring new cultures has led her to study several languages including German, Japanese, and Chinese. Having lived in several different countries across 4 continents, she often writes about languages and culture in her blogs and is very active on social media. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was 'stuck' in Tonga for 1.5 years after a weekend away. Ask her for some stories! 

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