On the face of it, following up the over-indulgent family dinners and the customary chocolate overload of Christmas with a booze-fuelled last hoorah for the holiday season before crashing back to reality on day one of the new year can seem like flawed logic. The fact is that New Year is as infamous as it is highly anticipated as revelers let themselves go and party like there is literally no tomorrow. Around the globe, however, other equally eventful celebrations varying from the holy and dignified to the quirky and downright wacky welcome the new year. Every culture throughout history has practiced the idea of forgetting the old and ringing in the new in one form or another and these events take place across the calendar in winter, spring, and summer. So, instead of welcoming the New Year with what is likely to be its worst hangover, why not refresh yourself by building Buddhist sand castles in Laos, taking an ice bath in one of Japan's tranquil Shinto shrines or joining the anarchy of banana stem battle royale in Zanzibar? Join us on a party train of a very different kind as we explore some of the world's most colourful and unique New Year celebrations.
Mar 11 2013
While the Aztecs ruled what is now the area around Mexico City and the central Valley of Mexico in their heyday in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a special new year's ceremony known as Nahui Tecpatl, or Año Nuevo Azteca in Spanish, takes place among the Nahua communities of Mexico and north of the border in California every March. Usually taking place on either March 11th or March 12th, the festival lasts for a whole day and celebrations kick off bright and early at 6am as the Mexica, the modern-day descendants of the Aztec themselves, come together in plazas and public spaces across Californian cities. Participants don elaborate Aztec-style costumes, set off fireworks, perform dances, light special 'Ocote' candles and the ceremonial space is dominated by the famous Aztec Xiuhpohualli calendar.
Mar 16 2014
Dec 31 2014
In Ecuador, a decidedly infernal and almost Voodoo-esque New Year's tradition sees people filling old clothes with paper and sawdust to make scarecrow-like effigies. Known as 'Los Viejos', or 'Old Ones', the scarecrows are also fitted with face masks by those who make them and are said to represent the faces of an unpopular figure from history or simply somebody with whom the scarecrow's creator had an argument or disagreement with during the year. When the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, all of the 'Los Viejos' scarecrows are ignited and set ablaze to symbolise forgetting anything bad in the past year and the hope that the coming year will be better.
Aug 14 2015
Mwaka Kogwa is a four-day-long celebration observed at Makunduchi, a village in the south part of Zanzibar. Men armed with banana stems participate in mock fights in celebration of the Shirazi New Year. The idea is to get rid of the past year’s disagreements and misunderstandings so that the new year can be started with a clean slate. What a harmonious way to start the new year.
Aug 14 2014
As the men fight, the women stroll through the fields singing songs about life and love. They are dressed in their best clothes and taunt the men after the fight is over. At the end of the fight left over emotions are directed towards a hut which is burned to ashes. Then the feast takes place. The festivities vary from village to village but Makunduchi is where the biggest events take place.
Apr 15 2008
Laos people splash water on Buddhist monks during the Songkran festival on April 15, 2008, in Luang Prabang, Laos. The Songkran Festival runs from April 13 - April 15 and is the traditional start of the Thai New Year. April 13 is Maha Songkran, a day which marks the end of the old year, April 15 is Wan Thaloeng Sok which is the start of the New Year. The festival is also known as the water festival as it is believed to cleanse the sins of the previous year.
Apr 13 2008
Laos people pay their respect to the sand stupa during the Songkran festival on April 13, 2008, in Luang Prabang, Laos. The Songkran Festival runs from April 13 - April 15 and is the traditional start of the Thai New Year. April 13 is Maha Songkran day which marks the end of the old year, April 15 is Wan Thaloeng Sok which is the start of the New Year. The festival is also known as the water festival as it is believed to cleanse the sins of the previous year.
Mar 11 2013
Indonesia's minority Hindu devotees torch an 'Ogoh Ogoh' effigy at a temple courtyard following a religious procession in Banyuwangi in East Java province on the eve of Nyepi. Hindus in Indonesia parade effigies symbolizing evil and after the procession the effigies are torched in a symbolic act of destroying all the negative and demonic elements in the universe and will usher in Nyepi, Hindu's total Day of Silence on March 12.
Mar 18 2015
Balinese participate in the Melasti cermony at Kuta beach on the island of Bali on March 18, 2015 in Despasar, Indonesia. Melasti is a purification festival which is held several days before 'Nyepi', a day of silence, when Hindus on the island of Bali are not allowed to work, travel or take part in any indulgence. The Indonesian holiday island of Bali shuts down for the day of silence to mark the Hindu new year.
Jan 9 2016
Japanese New Year Ice Bath 2016 January 9, 2016, Tokyo, Japan. A participant pours himself cold water during the Annual New Year ice bath ceremony at Kanda Myojin Shinto. A group of 36 brave men a women wearing only shorts or loincloths pour cold water over themselves in a traditional soul purification ceremony to test their endurance and which also brings them good luck.
Dec 27 2010
New year decorations to celebrate the 'Year of the Rabbit' are displayed above Nakamise Street leading to Sensoji temple in the Asakusa area of Tokyo on December 27th. The New Year holiday, or 'Shogatsu', is one of the most important holidays of the year in Japan when millions of people visit shrines or temples on New Year's eve.