When Does The New Year REALLY Start?

We’re already a few days into 2024, the New Year commencing on 1 January as decreed by Julius Caesar (Janus was the Roman God of Beginnings). 

New Year’s Day is the choicest of all calendar dates – it saves us from the villains of the past and allows us to usher in a fresh start with all the pizzazz we can muster.

It’s not just a date on the calendar; it’s a declaration of independence from the mishaps of the past year. People treat it like the ultimate breakup with the previous year’s troubles, with that well-worn cliché, “It’s not you 2023, it’s me”.

Out with the old, in with the new successes, opportunities, and a whole lot of optimism.

And the traditions! Around the globe, it’s a carnival of quirks. Some cultures swear by special dishes, probably thinking, “Eat this, and your year will taste as good as this meal!” Others turn into fashion police, picking specific colours to wear, as if dressing in special hues and funny hats invoke magical powers. Then there are those who attend religious functions, praying for a year less dramatic than a soap opera.

But no matter the rituals, one universal truth remains – New Year’s is a time to huddle in with friends and family, share laughs, and create lasting memories. 

Why?  Because facing the unknown is always better with loved ones by your side. So here’s to a new year, new laughs, and new memories—may they be as bright and shiny as those New Year’s fireworks!”

But did you know the aspects behind the beginnings of each year? 

New Year’s Day itself holds importance for several reasons. People view it as the date on which to leverage positive transitions in their lives replacing failures with successes and fresh opportunities.

Socially, the customs around New Year’s festivals vary around the world. A few societies have exceptional practices other than eating, dressing up or participating in religious functions. In many spots, individuals make different memories as they invite in a fresh start.

In the UK, we mark the transition fro the old to the new by singing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne (meaning ‘times long past’).  The Scots carry coal, coins or whisky from house to house (“first footing”). The Buddhist and Shinto temples in Japan ring their bells 108 times to indicate the number of worldly passions. The act of listening to the bells is said to bring clarity, mindfulness, and a sense of renewal.

In Argentina, the tradition is for people to tear up scrap paper and scatter it out of the windows, creating a joyous, if slightly messy, snowstorm.

Romanians dress up as grizzly bears dancing through the streets – many in family heirloom costumes, some of which are real bearskins. Animal rights groups are never too happy, but for them, it’s the dawn of Spring.

In the Czech Republic, January 1 is Czech Restoration Day, commemorating the splitting of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.  It has become traditional to cut an apple in half and look at its core: if there’s the shape of a star in the centre, you can expect happiness. A cross….well, not such good news. 

In Turkey, they throw pomegranates (symbols of plenty) in front of their homes; in Spain, they eat 12 grapes to ward off bad luck.  In Greece, they hang clusters of onions (a symbol of growth) on their front doors.  Filipinos display round objects around their homes (’round’ signifies money) and leave their lights on to usher in a bright year ahead.  In Colombia, people take their empty suitcases for a quick walk around the block to inspire 12 months of travel ahead.

It just goes to show it doesn’t matter how you celebrate as long as you’re having fun.

When Does The New Year Start For You?

Nature’s new year starts on 22 December when the days start getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere and shorter in the Southern.

The Ethiopian New Year always begins on September 11, whereas the Chinese New Year can take place anytime between Jan. 21 and February 20.  In 2024, the Year of the Wood Dragon kicks off on 10 February.

Nyepi, the “Day of Silence” in Bali, falls on March 11th, and the New Year starts the following day. It’s a day of silence, fasting and meditation. No one goes to work, no one goes outside, no one cooks, no TV or radio, no electricity is used. Even the airport is closed down for Nyepi. It’s their day to ‘pay back’ to the Earth.  

(For stargazers, Nyepi is the clearest day of the year for looking int the heavens, as there’s no ambient light).

Western Australia’s Aboriginal tribe of Murador celebrates New Year’s on what coincides with October 30 on the Gregorian calendar. 

So Happy New Year, wherever you are or whenever it falls for you!

Dr. Elmar Jung

Dr. Elmar Jung
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