New Year’s Traditions

January 2, 2018

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!

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Ethiopian flowers in bloom for the New 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!).

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Dancers celebrating one of the many New Years in Nepal

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.

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Chinese New Year Festivities

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.

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The Dance of the Moors and the Christians

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The Burning of the Bulls and the Wings

 

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year, no matter how you celebrate!

Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor


Halloween-like Traditions Around the World

October 30, 2017
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Pumpkins on display (Photo from Wikipedia)

It’s that time of year.  The air is crisp, leaves are falling and the days are getting longer.  Soon kids (and all the kids-at-heart) will dress up and the air will be filled with shouts of “trick-or-treat!”  Still others will stay indoors watching scary movies, pretending not to be scared of the dark.  Yep, it’s Halloween.  But do many of you know how Halloween began?  While there are many influences on the modern celebration of Halloween, most agree that the basis for the holiday is a blend of Celtic and Christian traditions.  The practice of jack-o-lanterns comes from the Celts, as they would carve turnips into lanterns to help guide departed spirits.  Trick-or-treating began as Christian children would go door to door collecting bread in exchange for prayers for loved ones.  After looking into the history of Halloween, I wondered if other cultures had similar celebrations, so I asked my co-workers to tell me about some of their homeland traditions.

Hailing from Croatia, Lilly Jasarovic told me that recently more Croatians are celebrating the modern Halloween with costumes and trick or treating.  But she also told me of the festival Maškare which is celebrated right before Lent.  During this festival, people dress up in costumes and celebrate with big masquerade parties, parades and bonfires.

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Bowl of Fritule, photo from wikipedia

Children are often given small doughnut-like pastries called fritule, as gifts by adults.

In Ethiopia, they celebrate the festival of Buhé (pronounced boo-hay).  Ahmed Abogn let me know that Buhe, sometimes refered to as Ethiopia’s Halloween, is celebrated in August near the end of the rainy season.  On the night of Buhe, young boys will go door to door singing and dancing, asking for small gifts, like bread or (nowadays) money.  Families will also light bonfires and gather around to celebrate.

Kaylan Dahal, a Bhutanese-Nepali caseworker, spoke about the traditions of Diwali.  The festival is a Hindu festival, also known as the Festival of Lights.  During this time families decorate their homes with flowers and it is a time to share food and blessings with each other.  During the festival, groups will go door to door singing songs or blessings and are rewarded with small gifts.  Kaylan tells me that in the refugee camp, you could visit nearly 100 homes because they were so close together.

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A Nepalese temple lit up for Diwali. (Photo by Dhilung Kirat)

Caseworker Law Reh spoke of the Karenni Deeku festival.  Named for the leaf-wrapped sticky rice that is cooked during this time, the festival is held with large group dances around sacred poles.  Sometimes people will wear masks during the celebrations.  They will also go door to door sharing gifts with one another.  Families will also make sculptures (Law described them similar to scarecrows) that will be placed in front of homes to protect from evil spirits.  This festival can take a week to celebrate and is a time to look forward into the next year as fortunes can also be told during this time.

Learning about all the different ways and reasons my coworkers celebrate was really great!  I got to hear about their homes and traditions as well as share some tidbits about Halloween too.  If this kind of history interested you, I hope you can take some time to learn more about the different traditions in the world because, as this blog showed me, despite the many differences, we are more similar than we sometimes think.

 

Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, LSS Center for New Americans


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