Happy New Year, Language Learners!
With another year in the books and the night’s festivities coming to a close, let’s take a look at how our friends across cultures and countries celebrate a year — and a decade — coming to an end.
The history of New Year celebrations goes back roughly 4,000 years to ancient Babylon — that’s a long time, don’t you think? It really puts things into perspective! Back then, it was celebrated for almost two weeks. Today, there are still some celebrations that last that long.
Most countries celebrate much like we do in the United States. There are parties, social gatherings, concerts, food, and drinks to last much longer than just one night. But in other cultures, there is more tradition and more meaning behind the close of one year and the beginning of a new.
For instance, in China, New Year’s celebrations last 7 days — and their New Year follows the Lunar calendar. So this year, Chinese New Year begins on January 25, making it the year of the rat. To celebrate, there are festivals and parades in the street where dragons will glide along pathways and citizens will cleanse their houses to prepare for the year ahead.
Similarly, New Year’s is celebrated on different days in Thailand — April 13-15th. On this traditional holiday, the people celebrate with a ceremony called Songkran. During it, people use water as a symbol of cleanliness, washing away bad luck. They will wash Buddhas and take to the streets throwing water around and at each other.
In Ecuador, effigies are burned to let go of the bad thoughts and feelings of the past. Effigies range from well-known television characters to political figures and beyond and are burned in celebration in streets across the country.
In other countries, the traditions and superstitions vary. For instance, in Spain and other countries, people will eat 12 grapes once the clock strikes midnight. In the Philippines, they will eat 12 round fruits to ring in the New Year and usher in good luck.
Fire is also a major component of New Year’s celebrations. In Panama, people light bonfires to symbolize a fresh start for the New Year. And in Scotland, bonfire celebrations and fireballs swinging through the streets symbolize the burning of one year to make room for the next.
As you can see, there are many different ways to celebrate the end of 2019 and the start of 2020. How will you be celebrating?