When Is a New Year? New Year’s Celebrations Around the World

Colin Lowther and Liz Waid look at the many ways – and days – that people around the world celebrate a new year. When do you celebrate a new year?

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Every year on December 31st millions of people around the world stay up late. They stay awake until the clock turns to midnight. They do this to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another. When the clock reaches midnight, everyone cheers and shouts. Some people kiss someone they love. A New Year’s celebration can be a fun celebration with friends or family. It is a good time to think about the past. But it is also a good time to think about your hopes for the future.

Voice 2 

However, did you know that if you live in a large city, such as San Francisco in the United States or London in England, you may see New Year’s celebrations all year? This is because people have come to these cities from all around the world. They bring their traditions and celebrations with them. And not everyone celebrates the new year on same day.

Voice 1 

Russian people celebrate "Novy Gode” on January 14. The Assyrian New Year is called Kha b-Nisan. It is celebrated on April 1st. And people from Thailand celebrate the New Year in April as well. They call the celebration the Songkran Festival. Today’s Spotlight is on different New Year’s celebrations like these from around the world.

Voice 2 

In the country of Vietnam, people celebrate the new year with the holiday Tet Nguyen Dan, or "Tet" Holiday. This is the festival of first days. It marks the beginning of the lunar new year. This celebration is on different days each year. This is because the time of celebration is based on the moon. But it is usually around late January or early February.

Voice 1 

During Tet, people often return to their family homes. It is important to begin a new year clean, happy, and full of good luck. So, people clean their homes. They pay debts. They may display a New Year’s tree in their home to keep away evil spirits. It can be a kumquat, peach, apricot or tangerine tree.

Voice 2 

When the clock strikes midnight on the new year, people make as much noise as possible. They shout and hit drums or other instruments. They wish each other “chuc mung nam moi” or Happy New Year!

Voice 1 

The Persian New Year happens in the month of March. Three hundred million people around the world celebrate the Persian New Year, called “Nowruz”. Nowruz marks the beginning of the Iranian calendar. It is a 13-day-long celebration. Masoud is a Persian man living in London. He spoke to the BBC about what Nowruz means to him.

Voice 3 

“For me, it has been brought down from the generations. We have been told about the culture of Iran. And the celebration of the new year. Which brings new life to spring into action for the year. And it is just a time to be full of joy!”

Voice 2 

Nowruz is a time for families to be together. People travel home if they are able. They set a table with seven special things that begin with the Persian letter S. This is called “Haft-sin”. Each thing represents something different. They may represent age, love, wealth, spring, new birth, health, and a sweet life. People wish each other “aidé shomā mobārak”. This means “Happy New Year!”

Voice 1 

Hindu people living in the south of India celebrate “Ugadi”. And Hindu people living in other parts of India celebrate “Gudi Padwa”. These celebrations are similar in many ways. There are two names because the people speak different languages. But during both celebrations, people create beautiful designs on floors called rangoli. They clean their houses and eat together with family. And of course, they wish each other “naye saal ki shubh-kamnaye” which means, happy new year.

Voice 2 

Rupa Vaitla lives in India. She believes these celebrations are important. She spoke to the website DeccanChronicle.com.

Voice 4 

“Every celebration has its own meaning. It has been passed down from generations. They all have a story to tell. This is what makes us and our families grow stronger and closer. We must teach our children the importance of every festival. They are the ones to take our culture and history forward.”

Voice 1 

There are many other times that people celebrate a new year. Jewish people celebrate “Rosh Hashanah” at the end of September. Muslim people mark “Murharram” around the same time. People in Cambodia celebrate new year in April. People in Korea celebrate at the end of January. Each of these traditions are different. But many involve cleaning, family, food, and remembering the past.

Voice 2 

When someone celebrates a different tradition then we do, it can make us feel separate and different from them. But it does not have to. In 2019, the Ethiopian New Year festival of Enkutatash was at the same time as the Chinese Autumn festival. Some Chinese people who were living and working in Ethiopia held a combined celebration. Kang Rongyao moved from China to Ethiopia for work. He told the website Xinhua:

Voice 5 

“Celebrating the two events in one place together with my Ethiopian colleagues was a special experience. I was amazed and happy with the many traditions and cultural values of our two countries. They value a family connection. And the traditions of the celebration give me a look at the meaningful Ethiopian culture. I think it is in many ways similar to the Chinese culture.”

Voice 1 

New Year’s celebrations are a great time to think about your own life. You can think about the past year or the future year. It can also be a good time to think about people all around the world. People celebrate different things in different ways. But when we enter into a new tradition, we may be surprised to discover how similar we are to one another.

Voice 2 

Have you ever celebrated a New Year of another culture? Did you learn anything new about the world? Did you learn anything about yourself? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘When Is a New Year? New Year’s Celebrations Around the World’.

Voice 2 

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


How do you celebrate the beginning of a new year? Have you ever celebrated a new year in a different culture?


Avatar Spotlight
November Green
said on December 30, 2019

Now, in Vietnam, we’re preparing for Tet holiday. Thank Spotlight so much.

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 30, 2019

Hello. Sorry, but you are wrong. Russian people celebrate New Year at January 1st. January 14th is the old date of this celebration. And this date was changed to January 1st more than 100 years in the past.

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 30, 2019

In Brazil, we celebrate the new year with a big and noisy party. People shout and fire various kind of fireworks. Then, they salute the New Year with champagne and dance and laughter. I never saw a new year festival in another culture, but I think it is the same and has the same goals.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on January 01, 2020

From .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To spotlight program
Subject to answer to the questions below
Location São Paulo city São Paulo Brazil
Wednesday 01, January 2020

Dear Adam Navis, Michio Ozaki, Colin Lowther, and Liz waid

I want to thank you for bringing us more one important article.
Question 1 - How do you celebrate the beginning of a new year?
Answer 1 - I usually stay at home with my cats because I live alone with them. So I wear white clothes like a T-shirt,  a men’s shorts, a pair socks, and a pair of sneakers to receive the new year.
After that I go bed to sleep.
Question 2 - Have you ever celebrated a new year in a different culture?
Answer 2 - Never.
God bless you and have a blessed 2020.
happy new year to you, too.
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 02, 2020

Hello Spotlight. you have no idea how much I love you, you finally said something about my lovely country Iran! I’ve been waiting for almost 2 years to hear you talk about us! As you know, we celebrate Nowruz every year and it is the first day of our Spring. Nowruz always feels so good, i love it. But i love 13 bedar even more! Oh you should say something about 13bedar in your future programs too! It’s all about our families and friends, and even meeting strangers in 13bedar and making new friends!! Or let me tell you about the last Wednesday of the year, 4 shanbe suri… It’s the most exciting day of the year :)) i just love our traditions and culture. I hope you mention them more. Love you so so so much.

Avatar Spotlight
Juan Vladimir
said on January 10, 2020

Hi, in the mexican culture, always we celebrate the new year in families company, but I consider your programs are very interesting and very so much didactics!
Many so thanks Spotligth and I wish you have blessed 2020.

Avatar Spotlight
Kim Kim
said on March 08, 2020

It’s good to hear about Tet holiday in this way. I was surprised when you guys said in Vietnam people make as much noise as possible, shout and hit the drum or other instruments. That is another way to talk about the new year in Vietnam. I’m Vietnamese.

I wish I would have a chance to celebrate the new year in a different country someday.