2020 was not a very good year. The world still hasn’t emerged from the deadly coronavirus pandemic. But as we enter 2021, we hear some positive reports coming in. The vaccination drive for masses has started in a few countries such as the US, Canada, UK, Israel, etc. More are following suit. In India too, it is being reported that the vaccination process will kick start in January. Countries are hoping to bring the situation under control over the next few months. And if all goes well, we should get back to the normal activities soon.
So yes, 2021 is a year of hope that everything will be alright soon. There will be challenges, of course. Availability and distribution of the vaccines to the rural and isolated population, the efficacy of these vaccines across masses, convincing people to step forward for taking the shots – will need to be handled well.
So let’s hope 2021 is the year of recovery and revival!
Did You Know?
- New Year is celebrated every year on January 1, the first day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
- The first day is dedicated to Janus, the God of new beginnings. The first month ‘January’ is also named after him.
- The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used calendar system around the world today. However, for centuries, other dates marked the start of the calendar.
- You will be surprised to know that few countries still do not follow the Gregorian calendar and follow their own calendar system. These include Afghanistan and Iran (Solar Hijri calendar), Ethiopia (Ethiopian calendar), and Nepal (Vikrat Samvat calendar)
- There are some countries that use other calendars alongside the Gregorian calendar and India is one of them. Other countries are Bangladesh (Bangla calendar) and Israel (Hebrew calendar).
- Few countries use modified versions of the Gregorian calendar. These are Taiwan (Minguo calendar), Thailand (Thai solar calendar), North Korea (North Korean calendar), and Japan (Japanese calendar).
- We are entering 2021 according to the Gregorian calendar but it may be a different year according to the above calendar systems in each of these countries.
Famous New Year Traditions – Around the World
Countries around the world welcome the change of the calendar with unique New Year traditions of their own. Here are some of the famous New Year traditions you should know if you happen to be celebrating your New Year Eve in that country or wishing your friends or family living there.
In the US, common New Year traditions include singing “Auld Lang Syne” (a Scots-language poem written by Robert Burns in 1788) to say goodbye to the passing year. Eating black-eyed peas for good luck is also a famous tradition.
In Spain, it is customary to eat 12 grapes – one at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Each grape represents good luck for one month of the coming year. In bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, people gather in the main squares to eat their grapes together and pass around bottles of cava.
In hopes of a travel-filled new year, Colombians carry empty suitcases around the block.
Residents of Denmark greet the New Year by throwing old plates and glasses against the doors of family and friends to banish bad spirits. They also stand on chairs and jump off together at midnight to “leap” into January in hopes of good luck.
In Finland, people predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening. A heart or ring means a wedding, while a ship predicts travel and a pig declares there will be plenty of food.
To drive off evil spirits for a fresh New Year’s start, it is an old tradition to burn effigies (muñecos) of well-known people such as television characters and political figures in Panama. The effigies are meant to represent the old year.
Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year in the Scottish manner. During the celebration of Hogmanay, “first-footing” is practiced across the country. The first person who crosses a threshold of a home in the New Year should carry a gift for luck. Scots also hold bonfire ceremonies where people parade while swinging giant fireballs on poles, supposedly symbols of the sun, to purify the coming year.
You’ll find round shapes all over the Philippines on New Year’s Eve as representatives of coins to symbolise prosperity in the coming year. Many families display piles of fruit on their dining tables and some eat exactly 12 round fruits (grapes being the most common) at midnight. Many also wear polka dots for luck.
An onion is traditionally hung on the front door of homes on New Year’s Eve in Greece as a symbol of rebirth in the New Year. On New Year’s Day, parents wake their children by tapping them on the head with the onion.
In Brazil, as well as other Central and South America countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, it is thought to be lucky to wear special underwear on New Year’s Eve. The most popular colours are red, thought to bring love in the New Year, and yellow, thought to bring money.
By Siddharth Kapoor, Class VI, Scottish High International School, Gurugram