When is New Year?

The tradition of celebrating the New Year as a new beginning goes back to the earliest societies. For many of us, 1 January is New Year. It is the start of the year on the widely-used Gregorian calendar. Many cultures around the world use different calendars, and celebrate New Year at a different time.

Lion Dance - Chinese Lunar New Year 2015 at Upper Riccarton Library
Lion Dance. Flickr CCL-2015-02-21-UpperRiccartonLunarNewYear-IMG_0729.JPG

New Zealand New Year

On New Year’s Eve, many New Zealanders celebrate by gathering to count down the last seconds of the old year. Once the clock has struck midnight, people link arms and sing Auld Lang Syne, a traditional poem rewritten by Robert Burns and set to a Scottish folk tune. Often the arrival of the New Year is celebrated with firework displays.

The custom of New Year celebrations was brought to New Zealand with the European settlers. The large number of Scottish settlers brought the traditions of Hogmanay. New Year’s Day remained a common-law holiday (i.e. a custom, not a legal right) during the 19th century until various holiday laws were enacted.

The Employment of Females Act 1873 and the Factories Act 1894 gave female and youth workers the right to time off on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and several other days. The Public Holidays Act 1910 confirmed 1 January as a public holiday. In 1965, 2 January became a public holiday.

New Year’s Honours list

New Zealanders who have made special contributions to their country are recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.

Matariki — Māori New Year

Te Pao a Tahu kapa haka group in performance
Matariki at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Flickr 2015-06-21-20150621_145614

The Māori New Year is marked in June by the rise of Matariki, a group of stars also known as the Pleiades cluster or The Seven Sisters, and the sighting of the next new moon.

Traditionally the coming season’s crop was thought to be determined by the visibility of Matariki. It was thought that the brighter the stars, the warmer the season would be and therefore the more productive the crop. It was also seen as an important time for family to gather and reflect on the past and the future.

Lunar New Year

Chinese months are calculated by the lunar calendar and each month begins on the darkest day. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth (when the moon is brightest) and the traditional lantern festival takes place then.

Hindu New Year

Most Indian regions celebrate New Year’s Day according to their regional calendars. Celebrated on the first day of Chaitra, the first month of the year, this day usually falls at the beginning of spring. Hinduism — New Year regional celebration explains more about the various celebrations including:

  • Navreh — Kashmir New Year
  • Nava Varsha — Nepal New Year
  • Vishu — Kerala New Year
  • Gudi Padwa — Maharashtra New Year
  • Ugadi — New Year’s day for the people of the Deccan region of India (Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka)
  • Bihu — Assam New Year
  • Puthandu — Tamil New Year
  • Baisakhi — Bengal and Punjab New Year

Find out more about the various Hindu calendars in Credo Reference.

Muharram — Muslim New Year

The month of Muharram is the first month in the Islamic calendar. The first day of Muharram is the start of the Islamic New Year. The Islamic year is counted from the year of the Hegira (A.H. Anno Hegirae) — the year in which Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina (16 July, 622 A.D.). The date of Muharram changes every year, as the Islamic calendar is lunar, and it is therefore shorter than the standard 365 days.

Rosh Hashanah — Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah is one of the most important Jewish religious holidays. It remembers the creation of the world. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means the ‘head of the year’. Sundown on that night marks the beginning of the year and the month of Tishrei. Jews used the ram’s horn (shofar) as a trumpet in Biblical times to announce the new moon, holidays, and war and the shofar is still used on Rosh Hashanah.

Other New Years

Other New Year celebrations include Nowruz (also spelt Noruz, Nauruz, Nawruz), the New Year festival often associated with Zoroastrianism and Parsiism. The festival is celebrated in many countries, including Iran, Iraq, India, and Afghanistan. It usually begins on 21 March.

Enkutatash in Ethiopia occurs on Meskerem 1 on the Ethiopian calendar, which is 11 September (or, during a leap year, 12 September).

See the listing of New Year celebrations in Wikipedia for more information.

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