Every year I find that my students share similar New Year’s traditions, but there are also unique traditions for each country.
The Ethiopian New Year is September 11, known as Enkutatash in Amharic or “Gift of Jewels.” Traditionally this holiday commemorates the return of the Queen of Sheba from a visit to King Solomon. It also occurs at the end of the rainy season when Ethiopia is flourishing and flowers are plentiful. In the morning, after a church service, young girls go from door to door singing and bringing flowers, young boys paint pictures of saints and play soccer games, and adults enjoy the day with beer and camaraderie. Incidentally the Ethiopian calendar is 8 years behind ours, so it is 2010 this year!
When doing some research I found that there are actually 9 different New Year’s days in Nepal, the official one is based off the Nepal Sambat calendar (which is 56.7 years ahead of our calendar, so we will be ringing in 2075 this year!) This holiday is celebrated between April 11 and 15, announcing in the spring season. The day is celebrated with picnics, parades, soccer and volleyball games, religious rites, and gifts and cards. People take time to consider both the past and the future and make resolutions for the coming year (sounds familiar!).
We of course cannot forget about the Chinese New Year. Following the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the Chinese New Year starts the end of January or beginning of February and lasts 15 days. Homes are thoroughly cleaned and decorated with red, old debts must be paid, gifts of money are exchanged, and it is common to light firecrackers. Cleaning the home removes all bad luck, and allows the new luck to prosper. This year Chinese New Year is February 16.
A little closer to home, Guatemalans celebrate with music, dance, colorful costumes and fireworks. People gather at the center of town to celebrate together. There are two essential dances that hail from Hispanic colonists, el Baile de Moros y Cristianos and la Quema de Toritos y Alas. The first dance represents the defeat of the Moors by the Christian Spaniards. The second combines both dance and fireworks when a man dressed as a bull parades through the town and fireworks shoot from his “wings,” lighting up his path.
Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year, no matter how you celebrate!
Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor