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Buddha statue water ceremony in Songkran festival

5 ways to celebrate the New Year throughout 2024

Image: Songkran is a celestial celebration that marks the start of a new year in the Buddhist Calendar |

Celebrating the New Year isn’t a recent invention. In fact, we humans have been celebrating the renewal of the calendar for almost as long as we’ve been around. After all, when have we ever passed up an opportunity for a good old knees-up? But what is it about the New Year that’s just so special?

Humans have relied on the cyclical nature of the Earth’s passage around the Sun for millennia. Telling us when it’s time to plant crops, when to harvest and when to rest, the start of each year not only signals that it’s time to begin the process over again, but that we have survived another 12 months. So why wouldn’t we want to party? Surviving against all odds is a beautiful feat of nature, after all.

But as humanity grew and spread around the world, we all started to experience different things. What was considered the start of a new year in one ancient culture would have been very different to another. This has meant that as the human race has continued to grow and diversify, so too have our New Year’s celebrations.

Gregorian New Year - January

Used across the globe, the Gregorian Calendar has been in use since 1582. Renewing each year on the first of January, the Gregorian New Year’s celebration is perhaps the most recognisable for much of the world.

Leaving behind the challenges and struggles of the year just passed, while there are many different kinds of New Year’s celebrations, one thing is universal: the raucous celebration that falls at midnight.

Lunar New Year - February

Unlike the Gregorian New Year, the Lunar New Year doesn’t work to a specific date in the calendar but instead calls back to the ancient way of tracking time: the cycle of the Moon. The Lunar New Year always falls on the first New Moon of a lunar calendar, which is usually between late January and mid-February.

The Lunar New Year is celebrated predominantly by Chinese, Vietnamese, and South Korean communities. Celebrations take place across the globe, especially in areas with a high percentage of these communities.

Typical Lunar New Year celebrations include dinner with loved ones, fireworks, and vibrant festivals with music and dancing dragons. The colours red and gold signify luck and prosperity, so many people will dress themselves and decorate their homes with as many red and gold decorations as possible to invite the best luck for the year ahead.

Nowruz - March

Meaning ‘New Day’, the Persian New Year celebration of Nowruz falls on the vernal equinox, usually around 21st March on the Gregorian Calendar. Marking the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, Nowruz was originally rooted in the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism and is one of the oldest New Year's celebrations in the world.

Being celebrated for over 3,000 years, Nowruz traditions include dancing, giving gifts to friends and loved ones, open-air festivities, and rituals. As the Iranian culture has grown and spread, so too have the Nowruz customs, with different regions having their own traditions and practices.

Songkran - April

Another ancient New Year tradition, Songkran is a celestial celebration that marks the start of a new year in the Buddhist Calendar. Typically observed when the Sun passes into Aries, more recently, the Thai government fixed the date of celebrations between 13th and 15th April.

Celebrated across Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, and parts of India, China, and Vietnam, traditional ways to celebrate Songkran include pouring and sprinkling water to signify washing away the past, performing good deeds and acts of kindness and making offerings. Other traditions include spring cleaning, processions, pageants and event water gun fights.

Enkutatash - September

Observed mainly in Ethiopia and Eritrea, Enkutatash is a public holiday whose name roughly translates to ‘gift of jewels’. The story goes that the Queen of Sheba returned from her visit to King Solomon of Jerusalem on what just so happened to be the first day of the Ethiopian New Year. In celebration of her return, her subjects showered her with gifts and jewels, and the date has been observed ever since.

Traditional celebrations include attending church in the morning, followed by a big family meal. Young girls will often wear new clothes and gather flowers in bouquets to gift to friends, and traditional songs are sung about the new year.