The first known New Year’s celebrations took place over 4000 years ago in ancient Babylon, in the spring on the eve of the vernal equinox, to celebrate the new moon and the rebirth of nature. Today, celebrations of New Year around the world vary, both in timing and in traditions. For the Western New Year, celebrated from December 31st –January 1st, cities around the world put on fireworks displays, have televised parties and count down until the clock strikes midnight.



Individual celebration styles vary, too. While some gather in large banquet halls for loud parties with friends, other people celebrate in an intimate family setting, and yet others do not recognize the Western New Year’s at all, instead celebrating a different New Year’s according to their traditions.

Among those who celebrate, good luck traditions abound! Filipinos eat round foods and wear polka dots and clothes with round designs to attract wealth and good luck. Spaniards, Italians and inhabitants of many Spanish-speaking countries around the world eat 12 grapes while making 12 wishes for every chime of the clock before midnight. They also wear new red underwear to attract love and good luck in the New Year. Peruvians put on new yellow underwear to attract wealth in the New Year. Brazilians wear white clothes for luck. Several central and southern European cultures break old dishes against the doors of their friends’ houses – so, if you have lots of broken pieces of crockery outside your front door, you must have lots of friends wishing you luck! Many cultures around the world eat various forms of cabbage – sweet cabbage, kale, collard greens, sauerkraut as well as peas (black-eyed peas in the American South) to bring luck and attract wealth in the coming year. Many Eastern European cultures believe that how and wish whom you spend your New Year’s Eve is how and with whom you will spend the majority of the coming year. Many cultures around the world place great importance on the first visitor of the New Year’s Day. According to several Western and Northern European traditions, if it is a tall, dark and handsome man bearing a gift, good luck is guaranteed for the entire year!

Fun traditions and New Year’s wishes for the VIU Community from VIU Staff Members

Idris Ulas, Turkey – New Year’s celebrations in Turkey are mostly family-focused. Some households (about 20%) have New Year’s trees which they decorate and others do not celebrate New Year’s at all. Many people buy lottery tickets, since the biggest drawing of the year is held that day! Idris’s New Year’s wish for the VIU community? “I hope 2013 brings you happiness and health!”

Pornkamol (Ying) Prinyaruk, Thailand – New Year’s celebrations in Thailand are saved for the Thai New Year, which will be April 13th-15th, and while the celebration is supposed to last for three days, most people celebrate for a whole week. Since it is hot and sunny, most people go to the beach and splash each other in the water. For Western New Year, Thailand has decorations up and people celebrate with big parties in restaurants, which are open much later than in the US. “I would like to wish everybody at VIU to be healthy and happy every day!”

Yanisse Berrios, Puerto Rico – In Puerto Rico, people have big fun parties with lot of food, music and dancing for New Year’s. Usually, people will celebrate with their families until the countdown to midnight and then go to other parties held by friends, dancing throughout the night. Brave souls may want to try “pitorro” a type of local moonshine – but not if they want to stay on their feet! Yanisse’s wish for the VIU community? “I hope they make the most of their holidays and spend time with family and friends.”

Dr. Johnson Kinyua, Kenya – People in Kenya have large family celebrations for New Year. They may eat a freshly-roasted goat, cow or chicken. “I wish the VIU community a very prosperous and successful 2013!”

Nitesh Pradhan, Nepal – In Nepal, celebrations are reserved for their own New Year celebration, which occurs in the Spring. Nitesh’s wish for the VIU community? “I would like to wish everyone a very happy New Year!”

Ariunaa Dashtsogt, Mongolia – In Mongolia, like in Russia an many countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, New Year’s is celebrated very much like Christmas except without the religious overtones. There are New Year’s trees, presents (mainly for children) and big family celebrations with lots of food and laughter. “I would like to wish the VIU community a healthy and productive year, full of happiness and smiles.”

Katherine Thomas, Belarus – In Belarus and Russia (as well as in their associated communities of expatriates around the world), New Year’s is very much like Christmas in America. There are decorated New Year’s trees, large family parties, Santa Claus (called Ded Moroz – literally, Grandfather Frost) who brings children presents and leaves them under the tree at night. There is also a countdown to midnight, toasts made and fireworks in major cities. The holiday is a secular one, so you will find Christians, Jews, Muslims and all other religions and nationalities within the countries celebrating alike. Katherine’s wish for the VIU community? “I wish everyone a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year, filled with joy, love and laughter!”