Regina Ahn, PhD Student, UIUC
The New Year is the most tangible symbol of new beginnings – of resolutions and promises – and hopefully, some new goals about encouraging yourself to #getoutside this year and spend more time in nature. As we wrap up our celebrations of New Year 2018 and the Chinese New Year 2018 (Year of the Dog), here is a short list of New Year celebrations from around the year, with rituals based in nature:
Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year celebration, takes place on New Years Eve and is known all over the world for the beautiful way it is celebrated with fireworks, bonfire festivals, and the singing of the Auld Lang Syne. Few know, however, that a common Hogmanay ritual involves cleaning the house (like we would for Spring cleaning) then walking from room to room with a smoldering juniper branch to ward off sickness and evil spirits. Old rural traditions involve blessing the house with holy water from a local stream before filling the house with the purifying smoke from the juniper branch. The Loony Dook, however, is the craziest of all Hogmanay rituals! On January 1, all Scots in South Queensferry gear up in fancy dress and jump into the frigid water of the Forth River – raising money for charity at the same time. Extreme form of an ice-bucket challenge!?
Everyone who has celebrated New Years in Brazil knows that is is tradition to wear white, to ensure peace during the incoming year. People also wear other light colors like green to symbolize good health. The biggest New Year ritual, however, is the appeasing of the sea goddess Lamanjá. On New Year’s Day, people throw offerings such as rice and flowers into the sea to please the goddess, who is believed to be the one who controls the waters. People also jump over 7 different sea waves: if they succeed, Lamanja is supposed to bring them good luck in the year.
New Year or Novo Leto is celebrated in Slovenia with lots of lights and nut cake. You are expected to wake up early to have a good and productive new year. An old Slovenian tradition, originating from the city of Kocevje was, however, to climb on top of a tall tree the day before New Years Day – to gaze into the future and see what the new year may bring. Nature also plays an important part in the celebration on Easter in Slovenia: the beganica is a bouquet made out of branches from seven different days and is used for conferring blessings.
The New Year in Bangladesh is called Pohela Boishakh and is celebrated on the 14th of April. It is also known as the Bangla (Bengali) New Year in India and falls on the same day as the Nepalese New Year. Pohela Boishakh is traditionally celebrated when people gather under a big (usually Banyan) tree or the banks of a river to watch the New Year sunrise. They then begin the first day of the new year by taking a dip into a holy river and participating in a big cultural procession called a jatra, where women deck their hair in flowers and wear colorful flower crowns. Symbols of nature are everywhere during the jatra parade, with everyone carrying giant colorful masks and decorations shaped like flowers, birds, and animals.
The New Year must-dos in Belgium are eating a first meal of sauerkraut, and making sure to put a coin underneath the plate before eating. Similar to Halloween and Christmas Eve, children visit their neighbors and sing them songs and receives sweets in return. Because of the strong reliance the country used to have on nature and their livestock, it is still a big tradition in rural Belgium to wake up on January 1st and whisper a happy new year to cows and cattle. Those without their own farm animals wish their pet animals a happy new year instead. This sweet gesture is believed to bring good luck to the family for the rest of the year.
Disclaimer: All images are fair use and sourced from the world wide web.