Next week, on March 19th, residents of Bali, Indonesia, will celebrate Nyepi, the beginning of their new year. Nyepi, sometimes called the day of silence, is a time when everyone remains indoors and refrains from their regular activities in order to reflect on the past year as well as the year ahead. Many other cultures have similar New Year’s rituals; some silly, some serious, all are concerned with putting the past to rest and ushering in the new year.
- Nyepi (March 19, 2007): On this day, residents of Bali, Indonesia, remain indoors and maintain silence as a means of encouraging self-reflection.
- Songkran (April 13-15, 2007): In recent years this Thai New Year’s celebration has been marked by people throwing water on each other and on vehicles in the streets, a mostly welcome practice since April is the hottest month in Thailand.
- Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year (September 12-14, 2007): One of the traditions of Rosh Hashanah is to throw pieces of bread on flowing water to symbolize casting off one’s sins (known as Tashlikh).
- Hogmanay (December 31, 2007): One important aspect of this Scottish New Year’s celebration is the tradition of “first-footing;” it is considered good luck if the first person to cross your threshold in the new year is a dark-haired male, preferably bearing gifts of coal (symbolizing warmth) and salt (symbolizing flavor).
- La Festa di San Silvestro (December 31, 2007): Italians celebrate the new year with special foods and festivities, and sometimes with flying furniture; it is customary in some areas to throw old belongings out the window to symbolize making way for the new year.
- Noche Vieja (December 31, 2007): A fun custom in Spain is to eat twelve grapes, one for each strike of the clock, at midnight.
- Shogatsu/Japanese New Year (January 1, 2008): In Japan, much attention is paid to the “firsts” of the year, including the first sunrise, the first work of the new year, and the first dream of the new year.
- Chinese New Year (February 7, 2008): There are many traditions and practices associated with the Chinese New Year season, which lasts for fifteen days after the New Year begins. One custom is to buy all new clothes to wear, often red in color, as red is believed to keep away bad spirits and bad luck.