Happy New Year! A few days late…or, early? Wait, what year is this? Turns out, it depends on which calendar you follow! The majority of the world follows the Gregorian calendar. This means we can, in fact, say that January 1 is the first day of the year and most people around the globe will agree. But it’s important to note that many people also recognize different calendar systems that are central to their cultures and religions. There are people celebrating the new year all over the world, all year long!
Girl Scouts is all about learning new things, and part of the fun for troop leaders is experiencing those new things with your girls. We’re all familiar with new year customs of fireworks and resolutions, but how about exploring other new year traditions with your troop? What a fun way to kick off the year and keep the celebrations going!
Here are just a few of the major calendars that guide holidays and celebrations year-round:
What’s behind it all?
There’s a lot of fascinating history surrounding the invention of our modern calendar. While much of it is based on science (calculating the length of the earth’s orbit around the sun or tracking lunar cycles), culture and religion come into play too. This video is a great primer for deciphering the history of calendaring.
Where to begin?
- Chinese New Year is the most important social and economic holiday in China. It was originally tied to the lunar-solar calendar but is now widely celebrated as spring festival each year.
- Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. It opens the holy days of the Jewish people each fall and represents the first day that God opened the Book of Life.
- The Islamic New Year is celebrated on the first day of Muharram, the first month of the lunar Islamic calendar, every fall. It is a time of remembrance and mourning.
- The Korean New Year is celebrated for three days with traditional foods, gifts, and time spent with families. It generally falls around the same time as the Chinese New Year.
- The Hmong New Year is an important communal and social event that is traditionally held at the end of the harvest season when all work is done (November and December).
Of course, these are just a few of the many new year rituals around the world that you can explore! Girl Scouts can learn about new year traditions by doing some research and getting out to explore local events (for example, this Chinese New Year event). If your troop is participating in a World Thinking Day event this year, consider learning about how (and when!) the country you choose celebrates the new year.
Many aspects of these new year traditions are unique to their culture or religion of origin, but be sure to highlight the similarities as you explore with your troop, too. Common themes of many new year customs include family, love, and hope for the future. Learning how other people celebrate and mark time is one step on a path towards creating cultural bridges. A perfect step for Girl Scouts on a mission to change their world!
Catherine Mandle – Catherine is a Volunteer Resource Specialist at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She was a Girl Scout as a child and is now the treasurer for her daughter’s Junior troop (which she started and led for their first 3 years). She has dual bachelor’s degrees from the University of Minnesota in anthropology and American Indian studies. Catherine has two children with special needs, including autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and food allergies. She is a Minnesota State Fair award-winning knitter and always has multiple knitting projects going. She also camps and hikes with her family as often as possible.