World Facts

New Year Celebrations Around the World

New Year’s Eve

In many places people stay up late to see the old year out and the new year in. Almost everywhere in the world church bells ring, horns toot, whistles blow, sirens shriek. London’s Trafalgar Square and New York City’s Times Square swarm with crowds of happy, noisy people. The hullabaloo expresses people’s high spirits at holiday time.

Chinese New Year

Many Chinese children dress in new clothes to celebrate the Chinese New Year. People carry lanterns and join in a huge parade led by a silk dragon, the Chinese symbol of strength. According to legend, the dragon hibernates most of the year, so people throw firecrackers to keep the dragon awake.

12 Lucky Animals: In the Chinese lunar calendar each of the 12 years is named after an animal. According to Legend, Lord Buddha asked all the animals to come to him before he left the earth. Only 12 animals came to wish him farewell, and as a reward Buddha named a year after each one. The Year of the Rabbit is 1999, and 2000 will be the Year of the Dragon.

Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur

In September or October, Jews believe that God opens the Book of Life for 10 days, starting with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). During these days, the holiest in the Jewish year, Jews try to atone for any wrongdoing and to forgive others. A ram’s horn trumpet, known as the shofar, is blown before and during Rosh Hashanah and at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.


In Thailand, a special three–day water festival on April 13–15 marks Songkran, the Buddhists’ celebration of the new year. Parades feature huge statues of Buddha that spray water on passersby. In small villages, young people throw water at each other for fun. People also release fish into rivers as an act of kindness.

At Songkran, people tie strings around each other’s wrists to show their respect. A person can have as many as 25 or 30 strings on one wrist, each from a different person. The strings are supposed to be left on until they fall off naturally.

New Year History

Ancient Greeks began their new year with the new moon after June 21. Before the time of Julius Caesar the Roman new year started on March 1. In most European countries during the Middle Ages the new year began on March 25, the day of the Feast of the Annunciation.

More New Year Traditions

  • Indonesia also has two New Year celebrations — the official one on January 1 and another on the Islamic New Year, whose date varies from year to year.
  • The Russian Orthodox Church observes the New Year according to the Julian calendar, which places the day on January 14.
  • In Vietnam the new year usually begins in February.
  • Iran celebrates New Year’s Day on March 21.
  • Each of the religious groups in India has its own date for the beginning of the year. One Hindu New Year, Baisakhi, comes sometime in April or May.
  • The people in Morocco observe the beginning of the year on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year.
  • The Koreans celebrate their New Year the first three days in January.

Ready for more holidays around the world? Learn about religious commemorations, harvest festivals, and national holidays.

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Photograph: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP



Thanksgiving Offerings Across the Globe

Submitted by Jennifer Noto

Thanksgiving traditions in the U.S. usually involve family, football, and a somniferous spread of foods. While our holiday has evolved from that first humble meal in 1621 where colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared a feast, it remains a day we look forward to and cherish. Likewise, many cultures around the world have celebrations that have evolved over the years but are rooted in honoring nature’s providence.

Malaysia: The Kadazan Harvest Festival

Celebrated each May, this festival is centered on honoring the rice gods, who are believed to provide an abundant harvest. Festivities include wearing traditional costumes and drinking tapai, an alcoholic beverage made from rice wine.

Korea: Chu Suk

Chu Suk roughly means “bountiful abundance.” This holiday is a celebration of the harvest in Korea and is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Typically, this is in August or September. During this festival, Koreans eat Songphyon—crescent-shaped rice cakes stuffed with sesame seeds, chestnut paste or beans. Other traditions include offering food to ancestors as an act of worship and gratitude.

Ghana: Homowo Festival

Similar to Malaysia and Korea, this African festival celebrates the harvest. Homowo is celebrated by the Ga people of the Accra region of Ghana and commemorates a period of famine in the country’s history. A month prior to the festival there is a ban on all noisemaking and drumming to symbolize the despair of the famine. Once the famine broke the people shouted with joy. The word Homowo translates to “hooting at hunger.”

Vietnam: Tet Trung Thu

Moon Cake Tet Trung Thu is a mid-Autumn celebration that takes place in Vietnam. The holiday revolves around spending time with children and can be seen as a cross between American Halloween and Thanksgiving. During this holiday, children parade through the streets holding brightly colored lanterns and traditional food like moon cakes (round pastries) are enjoyed. The origins of the festival relate to celebrating the harvest and prosperity in life.

India: Holi

Holi Festival IndiaA celebration enjoyed in India is called Holi, or “Festival of Colors.” This holiday is celebrated each March and usually lasts two days. Festivities include throwing colored powders and liquids and enjoying delicious foods in excess. It is a celebration of the coming spring where bonfires are lit to symbolically banish the cold from the grains and welcome the spring harvests.

At The Welcome to America Project, we love hearing about the various traditions of refugees arriving in the U.S. Next time you join us on a delivery, ask a refugee about their unique cultural festivities. Sign up for a delivery today!