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As soon as the calendar reaches the 1st of December the world starts preparing for the New Year, from resolutions aimed at making themselves and those around them better, to creating new opportunities and excelling further than the previous year. Just like Christmas, it is vital to understand what the New Year means to people of different cultures and different regions of the world. The New Year is more than just lights and fireworks, food, parties and lots of bubbly! For many people, it is a sacred day, a new beginning and a metamorphosis. Predominantly, the most notable New Year’s celebrations include the Chinese New Year, the Jewish New Year, the Islamic New Year and in Africa, the Ethiopian New Year. Of course, these different New Year’s celebrations occur on different dates and comprise different practices. What’s more, the New Year has a different significance to each denomination. To understand New Year’s Day, we need to take a look at the history of the holiday and how far it has developed in order to become what we are now familiar with.
Earliest New Year’s Celebration
As it stands, the Roman calendar is the accepted form in the west. Countries all over Europe and even the Americas follow the Roman way of doing things – even most of the legal works in the world is based on Roman law. This illustrates the kind of influence that the Roman Empire still has, long after its demise. On the other hand, there is no concrete evidence of when the first New Year was celebrated, with the eastern countries such as India, claiming that the first of their people celebrated the start of the New Year, thousands of years before the conception of Jesus and the development of the Roman Empire. It could be possible that each region celebrated the New Year in ways that are unique to them – the problem occurs when we look at documentation as proof.
The Roman Empire, the earliest known ‘modernized’ civilization populated with scholars and academics, was the first to state an official date for this holiday. The calendar that the Romans adopted had only ten months, from March all the way through to December. Some of the months that are used today are months that were first adopted in Rome through the Latin origins. Months such as September, October, November and December (‘septem’ meaning seven, ‘octo’ meaning eight, ‘novem’ meaning nine and ‘decem’ meaning ten).[i] It is popular conviction that the current calendar is based off the Roman calendar that comprised of ten months, and just like the current calendar, the first New Year that was documented was celebrated on the first day of the calendar year, that being the first of March. In 46 B.C, Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar based calendar that was a huge improvement from the previous calendar that had been inaccurate for many years, based on the lunar system. With this more accurate date, the Romans declared it the official ‘celebrated date of the New Year’.[ii]
Throughout the years, there has been much advancement where scholars and academia abolished and restored the first of January as the official New Year – most notably the Middle-Ages, where the rise of the Christian faith declared the 25th of December, the birth of Jesus, as the New Year. This of course, came with problems and by the year of 1582, the Georgian calendar, adopted by the more civilized countries, restored the first of January as the official New Year’s Day.
Different New Year’s Dates (Currently)
With many countries using different methods of determining the time of year, such as the seasons, harvest times and the stars, there surely should be different dates to the celebration of the New Year. To illustrate this, we will take a look at four regions and cultures that use dates apart from the dominant date of the first of January as of ancient Roman influence:
- Chinese New Year: Every year, date changes but falls within the same time frame of between the 21st of January and the 21st of February every single year. Dubbed the “Spring Festival”, it is one of the most important Chinese holidays and symbolizes a fresh start as the new moon rises. Each year, the Chinese people attach an animal to the year and each animal is a symbol of certain energy that will seek to somewhat explain what kind of year it will be for the nation.[iii] The Chinese observe a fifteen day period and most of the population spends the entire period with family, indulging in foods such as dumplings, rice and other Asian delicacies that are unique to the country. The Chinese New Year sees the skies light up with many fireworks and the streets coloured with dancing dragons and serpents. The Chinese New Year has got to be the most colourful New Year known to man; it is filled with so much joy, something that has been the norm and practice for many centuries.
- Jewish New Year: Known as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, a Day of Judgment and coronation. This year, the Jewish New Year fell on the sundown of September 20 and continued through nightfall on the 22nd of September. The Jewish light candles in the evenings, they enjoy festive meals with savoury and sweet delicacies during the day and night. Prayer services include the sounding of the ram’s horn, called the shofar, on both mornings – and it is important to desist from doing any creative work.[iv]This celebration is very calm, very peaceful, and is centred within the appreciation of the peace and love.
- The Islamic New Year: Known as the Hijiri, this day falls on the first day of Muharram, which is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This year, the holiday fell on the 21st to the 22nd of September and this fairly quiet holiday seeks the welcoming of the new moon in all mosques and prayers are offered to the sky in a way that aims to give thanks to the creator for the mercy of life and the birth of a new cycle. This holiday is very calm and Islamic people, a fairly peaceful people, use this time to meditate and introspect. No specific meals are eaten and some of the Islamic people meditate and fast in the days leading up to the holiday.
- Ethiopian New Year: Known as the ‘Gift of Jewels’ or Enkutatash, this day falls on the 1st of Meskerem on the Ethiopian calendar, which is the 11th of September according to the Georgian calendar. This day is as festive as the Chinese, where food, dance, and joy are shared and cherished. The streets are generally colourful with the colours of the Ethiopian colours, red, yellow and green. The streets are filled with flowers and there is a unique beauty to the celebrations.
New Year’s and Business
When it comes to making money, many service-driven companies outside of the hospitality and food industry struggle to be productive during the New Year’s festivities as most people take a break from work to travel and rest. For companies like Acadsoc however, there exists an opportunity for more clients to be accommodated as many students who are employed during the week have disposable time during the holidays and turn to Acadsoc to fill their learning demands during the time of New Year. The struggles that the company sometimes faces during this time is that its clients are at their peak when most teachers are on their holiday break as well – but Acadsoc has an opportunity to grow and promote itself as a quality platform during this time. The increased demand for demo classes translates to the possibility of converting the prospective students into regular ones, meaning more money for the teachers. For online teaching companies, the Chinese New Year is one of the busiest times of the year and that could mean trouble if there are more students than teachers willing to fill that demand. The beauty is in the fact that Acadsoc has teachers from all over the world around the clock, prepared to share in the celebrations while giving the students quality classes in this busy time.