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Celebrating Diversity

In doing some "New Year's Research," I learned quite a bit. Even though our traditional New Year has come and gone, I'd like to share a sampling of what I learned with you. (By the way, Happy New Year whenever it was or will be!)

Not all countries celebrate New Year at the same time, or in the same way. This is because people in different parts of the world use different calendars. Long ago, people divided time into days, months, and years. Some calendars are based on the movement of the moon; others are based on the position of the sun, while others are based on both the sun and the moon. All over the world, there are special beliefs about the New Year.

The Romans celebrated New Year on the first of March. When Emperor Julius Caesar began a new calendar in 46 BC, the New Year date was changed to the first day of January. By the way, January was named after the Roman god Janus, who was always shown having two heads. He looked back to last year and forward to the new one.

The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. It is a holy time when people reflect on the things they have done in the past and ways to do better in the future. Special services are held in synagogues, and an instrument made from a ram's horn is played. Children are given new clothes, and New Year loaves are baked and fruit is eaten to remind people of harvest time. This year Rosh Hashanah was September 7.

The Muslim calendar is based on the movements of the moon, so the date of New Year is eleven days earlier each year. In Iran, the people celebrate New Year on March 21, and a few weeks before this date, people put grains of wheat or barley in a little dish to grow. By the time of New Year, the grains have produced shoots, and this reminds the people of spring and a new year of life.

Hindus living in India celebrate the New Year in different ways and at different times. In western India, New Year is celebrated at the end of October at the same time as the Indian festival of Diwali. At the time of Diwali, small oil lights are lit all along the roofs of buildings and the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, is remembered. This year Diwali was celebrated November 4.

In Vietnam, the New Year is called Tet Nguyen Dan or Tet for short. It begins between January 21 and February 19. The people believe that there is a god in every home, and at the New Year this god travels to heaven to report how good or bad each member of the family has been in the past year. The Chinese New Year is also celebrated sometime between January 17 and February 19, at the time of the new moon, and it is called Yuan Tan. It is celebrated with street processions using thousands of lanterns to light the way for the New Year and firecrackers to frighten away evil spirits. This year both Tet and Yuan Tan fall on February 1.

Happy New Year! Hope it's a great one!

If you would like to have your home language added to our front entryway, please contact Mrs. Bonvallet at 375-3554.


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