A Glimpse Into New Year’s Traditions Around The World

Having lived and worked in six different countries in the past ten years, I have come to appreciate what binds us together as one human race. One such example is the idea of a New Year. Now, while the idea of having a fresh year annually is universal, the ‘when’ differs. Officially we welcome a new year on the first of January every calendar year. However, when you trace back a cultural identity to its roots, new beginnings are marked by seasons. Here are a few global New Year festivals.

A glimpse at one of the Shankranti traditions: Creating elaborate Rangoli decorations at the entrance of the house.

Shankranti (January 14)

The parties are officially hosted on New Year’s Eve with many people staying awake through the night to usher in the next year. However, before a global calendar was followed, the official start of the year was Shankranti, Maghi, Mag Bihu or Pongal. It is a festival that marks the first day of the Sun’s journey out of the winter solstice.

Mooncakes can taste divine or they can taste a bit dodgy, depending on the filling you prefer. I prefer the sweeter ones with Pandan or custard fillings. But whatever your individual taste, they are works of art!

Chinese New Year (February 8)

Celebrated by Chinese people and people of Chinese origin globally in February, this festival marks the beginning of the spring harvest season. It is often celebrated by sharing moon cakes and gifting red envelopes with money. You know it’s coming up to the New Year when you see colourful dragons and stunning lanterns on display. 

Nyepi (March 9)

This is the Balinese New Year and marks the first day of the Saka lunar-based Calendar. Instead of a fireworks and fanfare, the Balinese welcome the New Year with some mindfulness and rest. Most spend their day in silence, reflecting on the year gone by and making plans for the next year. Everything on the island is closed save for emergency services.

Nowruz (March 20)

While this festival is the mark of Spring, Nowrus is celebrated as the start of the New Year, when winter is over and life begins anew in nature. Zoroastrian and Baha’I communities celebrate their new year by cleaning out their houses and their lives, leaving space for new beginnings and resolutions.

Aluth Avurudda (April 14)

This Sinhalese festival, unlike other traditional New Year festivities, marks the end of the harvest season. Coinciding with Tamil New Year and Kerala New Year (Vishu), the New Year is celebrated with freshly harvested food, sweet treats, new clothes and spending quality time with family.

Rosh Hashanah (October 2)

The traditional Jewish New Year is a two-day holiday that commemorates the end of the seven days of creation as mentioned in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. The celebration is a subtle melange between festive cheer and quiet contemplation. 

Raʼs as-Sanah al-Hijrīyah (October 3)

Marking the first day of Muharram, the first month of the Muslim Calendar, the Islamic New Year is a celebration of the emigration (called Hijra) of Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. The New Year is ushered in by the first sighting of the moon.

Murador New Year (October 30)

Murador is a Western Australian Aborignal tribe that celebrates New Year’s Day every year on October the 30th. The day is earmarked as a time for friendship, for being grateful for the year just gone by and for making amends with family and friends you have fallen out with. While the Murador people are now extinct, many Australians mark this day in their own way.

What’s The Word For …

When I first started learning German, I was so proud to be able to learn words for everyday things and start using simple phrases that came into use every day. When we got deeper into the grammar, I started hating the language. Why in God’s name was there 3 definite articles that then changed format when the case changed? Why in God’s name do adjectives have endings depending on what case it is? And why would good grammar be determined by changing a verb depending on whether the object is an actual object or a person? And why is there a case of possession?

I started hate-reading books and essays from people who were, at some point, on the same learning journey as mine. I looked for memes to calm my frustrations. I binge-watched videos about why it’s so stupid that as human beings we don’t have one language to tie us all together. I day-dreamed of Star Trek type universal translators that are a bit more user-friendly and high-tech than our current translators.

And then I realised that through all that moaning and whining and media consuming, I had become able to articulate some of my less complex thoughts in an entirely different language.

Shitting Gold: Altstadt, Düsseldorf, Germany. Source: https://flic.kr/p/8Cf4ds

I started being fascinated by the differences between German and English, and the similarities. I started to understand the cultural roots of some phrases, and how language is built by joint communal experiences. Where as in English you would say “Money doesn’t grow on trees”, in German they say “Ich kann doch kein Geld schießen”, which translates to – I can’t shit gold.

I experienced first-hand the German need for precision. They have invented words to express specific complex feelings and gadgets and activities. It’s what made me fall in love with this crazy, monumental language. Words like – Wanderlust and Doppelganger have made it to the English language potentially because we tried to express that feeling we get when we look at the stars and the sea and ended up writing novels.

Here are some more words that I’d vote to get into the English language:

TORSCHLUSSPANIK

Now, the millenials have made a good job of coming up with the word FOMO, but before that we had to put our sentiments into three or four awkward sentences at a Christmas dinner party. The German’s have had a similar word for centuries. Torschlusspanik is literally the panic you feel when the drawbridge is closing and you’re not going to make it to the last ferry!

FREMDSCHÄMEN

When you’re embarrassed for someone else, you have second hand embarrassment. Now you can replace the too-many-double-letters with one word! YAY German!

KUMMERSPECK

You’ve just been through a difficult break up, or you’ve been laid off, or your favourite TV show has been cancelled. You try to cheer yourself up with some good old emotional eating. It could last from a few hours to a few months. The residual soft padding that makes it tough fit into previously well-fitted clothes, that’s Kummerspeck. Or grief bacon! I love that they have a word for that whole complicated emotional process.

SCHADENFREUDE

When you’re happy at someone else’s misfortune, you have Schadenfreude. It’s the same feeling you had when you voted Brexit or Trump just to piss off your child-in-law, and your vote was the winning vote! Take that, suckers!

FINGERSPITZENGEFÜHL

There’s intuition, and there’s the ability to combine tact and diplomacy with sensitivity towards others feelings. Some people feel the solution to a situation in their fingertips, like magic. But their ability to appropriately respond to a tricky situation comes from a combination of past experiences, skills learnt on YouTube videos, advice from self-help books etc. That’s your Fingerspitzengefühl. It makes you an expert of something, even though you can’t really explain logically why you’re so good at it.

LAMPENFIEBER

I always thought ‘stage fright’ didn’t do a good enough job of explaining the feeling you get when you’re performing for a crowd. Are you really afraid of the stage? Are you afraid of the people sitting in the audience? Would you still be afraid if you convert the room into a party and you’re mingling somewhere in the middle? No. You’re more afraid of the lights being shone on you. You’re afraid of being in the spotlight. Your heart starts racing, you’re sweating, your mouth goes dry, you would rather be in bed and under the sheets. You have lampenfieber or fever caused by the lights!

SCHNAPPSIDEE

You know how you are invited to a social event you dread going to? You drink a couple of drinks in quick succession so you are less inhibited, then the evening just escalates from there? Suddenly you’ve adopted a pet pig, you have a tramp stamp you don’t even remember getting but that seemed like a good idea at the time? That, my friend, is an idea fuelled by schnapps. It’s so much more nuanced that a bad idea. It’s a schnappsidee.

2018 In Books

As usual, my 2018 got so 2018 that I didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked to write about my experiences, my travels, my observations, my progress in learning a new Language. I’m going to make up for that by posting what my life looked like in terms of books.



Yay!

Around The World In 3 Pictures

I love the N-N-1 no matter how many entries we get in. All you need is one different perspective of the same date and the same time. I don’t really have the words to express the powerful emotions it evokes in me. I hope you enjoy this edition as much as I did.

 

I sought out a quiet place for my picture this time around. I love graveyards. There is a calm serenity that is hard for city dwellers to find. Though, truth be told, I would love a graveyard if I lived on top of a mountain. This is one of the Catholic graveyards in Lafayette. The Catholic ones tend to have more older trees and rolling landscape. It is almost enough to make me consider becoming Catholic and be buried rather than cremated. But the odds are that I shan’t. I wonder if I can find a graveyard on a mountaintop to visit.

Norm Houseman, Classical Gasbag

Milo drove me to and from the barcode barn

For my first checkup

Since being released.

 

I was surprised to discover

That I missed the place

With all the rules and

Cannots that go with it.

 

I even missed Nurse Grumple of the Shiny Pate,

With the sour disposition and fishy eyes.

Ready to slap you if no one was watching.

I must plan my revenge!

 

They asked me if I had had any problems.

I said “No.”

They asked me if I was taking my meds.

I said “Yes.”

They asked me if I had found a new job yet.

I said “No.”

I lied. I am back working as a bartender.

I also failed to mention the bottle of Jim Beam Milo was holding for me in his car.

 

I may skip my next session.

Natalie Garvois

 

I inadvertently picked an N-N-1 without realising how many firsts I would be capturing on my phone. Normally, I would pick a normal day with the hope that it would spread the philosophical message of ‘what’s boring and normal for you is exotic and exciting to someone else’.

This day in history marked the first trip abroad for my 4 month old niece – first trip for her parents with her on a flight, her first flight, using her first passport for the first time, visiting a beach for the first time, and the first time she did a flawless crawl. You get the picture.

This picture is also a reminder to me to actually get out and do things that are on my list. I knew of this city beach (Cologne is nowhere near the ocean, this is a naturally occurring beach by the river Rhine) but only got around to visiting it when Isabelle was here. And now that it’s getting colder again, I regret not spending every summer weekend there.

Me.

Time For Another Adventure Through Space And Time

I’ve exhausted all my money on “budget-friendly” holidays this summer but have still not a made a dent on the colossus that is my Wanderlust. The time is ripe for another N-N-1, an opportunity to see various parts of the world for FREE!

For the uninitiated, N-N-1 is the brainchild of one of my best friends Norm Houseman who blogs over at Classical Gasbag. The genius idea (some would say I only think that cause he’s one of my favourite people, but those people would be wrong #hatersgonnahate) is an attempt to see through the lens of the blogosphere where they are at that moment, whatever they are doing.

Simply put, bloggers from all over the world take a photo on a select date and time, whatever timezone they are in. The result is a magnificent online kaleidoscope of postcards that I am quite frankly addicted to.

You can find some of our older N-N-1 masterpieces by clicking on the link.

If you want to participate, please take a photo on SEPTEMBER 1st 2018 at 5:00pm YOUR LOCAL TIME. Send me the photo along with a 100 -200 word ‘caption’ to labyrinthiroam at gmail dot com within a week and I will publish it.

Feel free to ask me any questions you may have about it, and to also invite any of your friends who you think might be interested!

Good luck! Bonne Chance! Viel Glück! Sterkte! Buona fortuna! Selamat Maju Jaya! Bahati njema! Buena suerte! And so on!