Saturday, February 1, 2003

The New Year — III


IN Japan, New Year celebrations last for three days, starting January 1. Everyone gets new clothes and little work is done. Buddhist temples ring out the old year by letting passersby ring a huge bell once until it has been rung 108 times, that is, one time for each kind of evil in the world. On New Year’s Day, it is traditional to make a pilgrimage to a Shinto shrine or a Buddhist temple

In Iran, the New Year falls on March 20 or 21 and is called Nouruz, which means new day or new life. On the Wednesday before New Year’s Day, people jump over fires to purify themselves. It is bad luck to stay indoors on the 13th day and people attend picnics and watch male dancers juggle pins and chant to drum beats. Sprouted wheat and lentils are thrown into an ocean or lake.

In Austria, New Year’s Eve is called Sylvesterabend or the Eve of Saint Sylvester. Legend has it that Saint Sylvester killed an evil monster dragon called the Leviathan in 1000 AD, on what was widely predicted to be Judgment Day when Leviathan was supposed to rise, fight the Behemoth and be killed. He did rise and was vanquished. Leviathan was a serpent-dragon so large that its multicoloured coils encircled the earth. Confetti, streamers, and champagne are part of the New Year’s Eve. Evil spirits of the old year are chased away by the firing of mortars called boller. Midnight mass is attended and trumpets are blown from church towers at midnight. People exchange kisses. There are fireworks in larger cities.

The New Year - II
January 18, 2003
The New Year
January 4, 2003
Lively lives
December 21, 2002
Fashion statements
December 7, 2002
Spreading wings
November 23, 2002
Borrowed words
November 9, 2002
Multiple facts
October 26, 2002
October 12, 2002
Where did this one come from?
September 28, 2002
Who changed the meaning?
September 14, 2002
Who coins new words?
August 31, 2002

April 13 is the Cambodian New Year’s Eve and its celebrations last for three days. It is called Chaul Chnam Thmey that means ‘entering the new year’. Houses and home altars are cleaned to welcome the New Angel, guardian of the new year. Homes are decorated with flowers, balloons and gold, silver, red, white, or green streamers. Altars hold five candles, five incense holders, and perfumed water to wash the Buddha, fruit, flowers, and rolled banana leaves. There is a religious service on New Year’s morning after which people feed monks. People douse each other with water as a blessing. Water can be coloured red, pink, or yellow to symbolise a colorful future. Dessert cakes made of sticky rice and banana are made to honour the Hindu God Shiva. A sticky rice cake with sweet ground beans honours Shiva’s wife Uma. New clothes are worn. Children give money to their parents, aunts, and uncles as a sign of respect. In additions, they may also give food or fruit.


Hindus in the different parts of the country celebrate New Year at different times of the year. In Tamil Nadu, Vishu, the spring festival on April 14 marks the beginning of the new year. The springtime festival of Baisakhi celebrates the beginning of a new year in Punjab. In Maharastra, the festival of Gudi Padva in the month of March or April and in Andhra Pradesh the festival of Ugadi on the same day mark the first day of the new year. The Kashmiri New Year begins with the festival of Navreh in the spring. The Bengalis of West Bengal celebrate the Naba Barsha on the April 13, while those from Bangladesh call it the Poila.