As the minutes and hours tick away and bring to a close 2012, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how people in other countries celebrate the New Year. I will list 4 different countries for this blog post and add to the selections.
The New Year is Australia is celebrated January 1 as we do in the USA and the celebrations start on December 31 at midnight with horns and whistles. Many of the celebrations are outside since it is summer at this time of the year. The celebrations include picnics and rodeos. New Year’s day is a public holiday as it is in America.
Great joy is the expressed for the Buddhist New Year. The holiday is celebrated April – May during the full moon. It is considered the most holy of days and is celebrated to commemorate Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death, or attaining Nirvana. Traditions vary from country to country and are not always celebrated on the same day. People generally gather in the temple to listen to sermons by monks and at night there are candle lit processions around the temples. As a gesture of kindness, caged birds may be released and set free.
In modern day Egypt, New Year’s day is a public holiday and is a very festive occasion.
The New Year begins by observing the custom of the new crescent moon and it must be seen before the official announcement is made. The sighting is carried out at the Muhammad Ali mosque which is at the top of the hill in Cairo. The Grand Mufti, a religious leader then proclaims the New Year. Men that have been waiting outside the mosque for the announcement then wish each other a happy New Year and then go home to tell their families and sit down for a special New year dinner which includes meat even in the poorest of families. Muslims do not drink so no alcohol is served. People dress in their special clothes and visit with friends. Girls that are usually only wear black, are allowed to wear brightly colored dresses. Children are given special sweet treats.
January 1 is the day to celebrate the new year in Greece but also marks another celebration, St. Basil’s day. Remembered for his generosity and kindness to the poor, St. Basil was one of the forefathers to the Greek Orthodox Church. He is remembered on this date as a remembrance to the anniversary of his death.
In Greece, New Year’s day is possibly more festive and important than Christmas because of it is the main day for gift giving and stories of kindness of St. Basil as he would come in the night and leave gifts for the children in their shoes.
The most important dish prepared for New Year’s is Vassilopitta or St Basil’s cake, and inside the cake is placed a silver or gold coin. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be lucky for the next year.
The cake is distributed in accordance to a strict order. The first piece is for St Basil, the second for the house, the next for the most senior member of the household down to the youngest member and also including absent members. There may also be a piece of cake for the cattle and a large piece for the poor.
In addition to the cake, an abundance of food on the table including Kourabiedes Shortbread and thiples. There is always honey on the table and olive-branches, nuts, fresh fruit and other symbols of happiness and wealth.