It’s “Feliz Ano Neuvo, Prospero Ano Nuevo’ in Spanish, “Chu Shen Tan” in Chinese, “Bonne Annee” in French, “Prosit Neujahr” in German, “Buon Capodanno” in Italian, “Novim Godom” in Russian, “Cung-Chuc Tan-Xuan” in Vietnamese, “Happy New Year” in English and “Manigong Bagong Taon” in Tagalog.
Regardless of cultural differences, the world unites in an explosion of noise and merry-making on the last hour of December 31, New Year’s Eve, the final day of the Gregorian year preceding New Year’s Day.
In much of the world, New Year’s Eve is celebrated with parties and social gatherings as the old year fades away and the new year dawns at midnight.
In many parts of the world, fireworks and other forms of noise-making mark the celebration.
Needless to say, it’s not only in the Philippines where people whoop it up on the last night of the year.
Besides the cities of Metro Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines, some of the cities most well-known for their celebrations include Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, London, Edinburgh, Istanbul, Berlin, Moscow , Paris, Athens, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Madrid, New York City, Las Vegas, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Chicago, San Rafael, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso, Niagara Falls, Ontario and Montreal.
New Year’s Eve is a public non-working holiday not only in the Philippines but also in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Greece, and Venezuela.
Filipinos usually celebrate New Year’s Eve together with members of their family or with close friends. Traditionally, most households stage a dinner party called “Media Noche” in their homes. Typical dishes include pancit, hamon and if the family could afford it, lechon, which is usually considered as the centerpiece of the dinner table. Barbecued food is also an integral part of the menu.
One of our local traditions during New Year’s Eve is the customary habit of wearing clothes with circular patterns like polka dots. This signifies the belief that circles attract money and fortune.
Traditions also include the serving of circularly-shaped fruits, shaking of coins inside a metal casserole while walking around the house, jumping high which is believed to cause an increase in physical height, and making loud noises to drive away “evil” spirits.
People also spend money to buy firecrackers and pyrotechnics that are ignited in the last moments leading to the coming of the New Year.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated as a major social holiday across America. The biggest celebration is usually seen in New York and Las Vegas.
In the past 100 years the “ball dropping” on top of One Times Square in New York City, broadcast across the United States and rebroadcast in many other countries, is a major component of the New Year celebration. The 1,070-pound, 6-foot-diameter Waterford crystal ball located high above Times Square is lowered, starting at 23:59:00 and reaching the bottom of its tower at the stroke of midnight (00:00:00). It is sometimes referred to as “the big apple” like the city itself; the custom derives from the time signal that used to be given at noon in harbors.
The Chinese New Year actually takes place between January 21 and February 20. The exact date is fixed by the lunar calendar, in which a new moon marks the beginning of each new month.
For many families, it is a time for feasting, visiting relatives and friends, but in cities spectacular processions take place. The celebrations are based on bringing luck, health, happiness, and wealth till the next year. Chinese people clean their houses to rid them of lasts year’s bad luck before the celebrations begin.
There are street parades where thousands of people line the streets to watch the procession of floats in the New Year parade. Dancing dragons and lions weave their way through the crowded streets. The dragon is associated with longevity and wealth. Inside the costumes are dancers, twisting and turning the dragon’s long silk body and blinking eyes.
Chinese people believe that evil spirits dislike loud noises so they decorate their houses with plastic firecrackers. The loud noises are intended to frighten away evil spirits and bad luck that the spirits might bring.
Lucky money is given out in red envelopes with the family name and good-luck message written on them in gold. They are given on New Year by relatives, but, only to the unmarried as well as the children of the family.
New clothes are worn, and visits are made to friends, neighbors, and relatives to exchange good wishes of “kung-hsi fa-tsai,” which means “congratulations and prosperity.” As an occasion for reconciliation, it’s a time when old grudges are cast aside amidst an atmosphere of warmth and friendliness.
The Muslims have their own calendar which is based on the cycles of the moon. The calendar consists of 12 months but only has 354 days unlike other calendars such as the Gregorian or Jewish calendar etc. For this reason the Islamic New Year moves eleven days backwards through the seasons each year.
Muharram is the first month of the Muslim year. Its first day is celebrated as New Year’s Day.
The Islamic New Year throughout the world is held quietly, without the festive atmosphere of other New Year celebrations.
The appearance of the new moon is recorded in the mosques and special prayers are said. The most important part of the New Year is the telling of the story of the Flight of Medina. The story goes over the radio for everyone to hear.
The Indian New Year festival is called Diwali or the Festival of Lights. The festival is celebrated differently in the various districts of India.
Diwali is celebrated for three days in late October to early November in Indian cities and towns which shine and glow with thousands of lights. Indian homes are decorated with little oil lamps. Lights are also found in temples, houses, along window ledges and along garden paths. In cities electrical lights are used to light up buildings. These are used to drive out evil and to invite goodness.
People try to finish of any uncompleted work as Diwali marks the end of the year. Businesses pay of all debts and new account books are blessed before the New Year. It is a time for new beginnings. People buy new things such as things for their homes or new tools, or even new clothes those who can afford to.
The Japanese New Year — called “Oshogatsu” — is an important time for family celebrations, when all the shops, factories and offices are closed.
The Japanese celebrate the New Year on Jan. 1, but they also keep their beliefs from Shinto their religion.
To keep out evil spirits, they hang a rope of straw across the front of their houses, which stands for happiness and good luck.
When the New Year begins, the Japanese people begin to laugh, and this is supposed to bring them good luck in the New Year.
In Japan temple bells usher out the old year, and then comes the “joyano-kane” which is the “night-watch bell.” This is a series of exactly 108 peals. These, it is said, free the faithful from the 108 “earthly desires” lambasted in the Buddhist canon.
The ringing of the bell 108 times is done to free the year form evil. For those who follow the Shinto religion the house is decorated with evergreens which are the symbol for eternal life and bamboo which is the symbol for honesty.
The first day of the lunar New Year is called “Sol-nal” in Korea. This serves as an occasion for families to renew ties and prepare for the new year.
On New Year’s Eve, people place straw scoopers, rakes or sieves on their doors and walls to protect their families from evil spirits.
Everyone dresses in new clothes the following morning, symbolizing a fresh beginning, and gathers at the home of the eldest male family member. Ancestral memorial rites are held, then the younger generation bows to elders in the family. They wish them good health and prosperity in the coming year. The elders often then give newly minted money or gifts afterwards.
The more popular name for the Vietnamese New Year is “Tet,” a major festival in Vietnam because it provides one of the few breaks in the agricultural year, as it falls between the harvesting of the crops and the sowing of the new crops.
The Vietnamese prepare well in advance for the New Year by cleaning their houses, polishing their copper and silverware and paying off all their debts.
The Thai New Year festival is called “Songkran” and lasts for three days from April 13 to 15, according the Gregorian calendar.
The customs include the throwing of water over one another, in the belief that it will bring good rains in the coming year.
Thais wash their Buddha statues or images and visit the monastery to pray and offer gifts of rice, fruit, sweets and other foods for the monks.
Many people in Taiwan celebrate the end of the year with concerts in most of the cities and recently using a big screen on the stage to communicate with cities around the island by shouting Happy New Year to each other.
The most crowded city is the capital Taipei which most people gather around Taipei 101 located in the shopping and financial area of Taipei. People gather around the roads around Taipei 101 and together they shout from 10 to zero. With each number they count, one of the layers of Taipei 101 (eight floor per layer) lights up until zero, the fireworks shoot out from the top of each layer (8 layers excluding a layer under the antenna) in different directions.
Since the construction of the London Eye, the British capital has become the center of New Year’s Eve celebration in the United Kingdom. A huge 10-minute fireworks display is held each year at the London Eye, illuminated with colored lasers.
Other large cities in Britain such as Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham all have large celebrations.
There are also major celebrations across Scotland where it is known as “Hogmanay.” The traditional song “Auld Lang Syne” was written by Robert Burns, a Scottish poet.
There are large street parties held in the major cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow.
In Russia, the most formal New Year’s celebration party is held at the Kremlin. As many as 50,000 attendance tickets are sold in the weeks before the annual event.
Instead of Santa Claus, Russians have Grandfather Frost. He looks much like Santa Claus but arrives on New Year’s Eve with his bag of toys. He wears blue instead of red. Father Frost can punish any evil doer by freezing them. Often kids dance around the tree, tell rhymes to Father Frost then receive their presents.
They have large decorated trees in the centers of the major cities.
Spaniards celebrate New Year’s Eve – called “Nochevieja” or “Fin de Año” — with a family dinner, traditionally including shrimp and lamb or turkey. Spanish people believe that wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve brings good luck.
The actual countdown is primarily followed from the clock on top of the Casa de Correos building in Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid.
It is traditional to eat 12 grapes, one on each chime of the clock. After the clock has finished striking twelve, people greet each other and toast with sparkling wine.
After the family dinner and the grapes, many young people attend New Year parties at pubs, discotheques and similar places. Early next morning, party attendees usually gather to have the traditional winter breakfast of ‘‘chocolate con churros’’ (hot chocolate and fried pastry).
Each major city around Australia holds New Year’s Eve celebrations, usually accompanied by a fireworks display amongst other events. Perth’s fireworks are let off from barges along the Swan River. In Brisbane 50,000 people annually gather at sites around the Brisbane River in the city to watch a fireworks display while events are held in the city and at Southbank.
The two largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in Australia are held in its two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney. Over 1 million people gather around Sydney Harbour every year for the celebrations.
Auckland is 496.3 kilometers west of the International Date Line and thus is the first major city to see the beginning of the new year.
However, Gisborne is actually the first city in the world to see the first sun rise for the year. New Zealanders celebrate New Year’s Eve with large street parties and fireworks displays.
In Canada, New Year’s traditions and celebrations vary from region to region. Generally, New Year’s Eve in Canada is a social holiday.
In major metropolitan areas such as Toronto, major celebrations with music and fireworks are often held at midnight. In rural areas and remote areas, people often take their snowmobiles to high hills, set up barbecues, and roast steaks or hotdogs. In some areas, such as in rural Quebec, people ice fish and drink with their friends until the early hours of January 1. Traditions from other countries are also common due to Canada’s cultural makeup.
The French call New Year’s Eve “la Saint-Sylvestre.” It is usually celebrated with a feast called le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre. This feast customarily includes special dishes like foie gras and drinks like champagne. The celebration can be a simple, intimate dinner with friends and family or a much fancier ball.
On le Jour de l’An or New Year’s Day, friends and family exchange New Year’s resolutions and sometimes gifts.
The holiday period ends on Jan. 6 for the Epiphany.
The largest New Year’s Eve celebration in all of Europe is celebrated in Berlin by more than 1,000,000 people attending the festivities each year. A huge firework lights up the Brandenburg Gate.
Mexicans down a grape with each of the 12 chime of the bell during the New Year countdown, while making a wish with each one. On New Year’s Eve, those who want to find love in the new year wear red underwear and yellow if they want money.
Other traditions include, sweeping the dirt out, taking luggage outside as a symbol of future trips, hanging sheep dolls (mainly made out of wool) in the doorknob for prosperity, among others.