Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy New Year !

One of the highlights of living in China for a year is that I got to celebrate the start of the New Year TWICE in 2004. Unlike the “traditional” New Year of January 1 (which only goes back about 430 years), the Chinese New Year is celebrated on a different date each year because it follows a lunar cycle.

For the same reason, Easter changes dates each year.

The English names of the Chinese New Year are on a 12 year cycle, and rotate through a series of animals. 2009 is the year of the Ox, and it was celebrated on February 7. Due to the fact that the Chinese people have used the same calendar for over 4000 years, the year that we are currently in is actually the year 4706.

Since fireworks were invented in China, the celebration that I witnessed on the banks of the Pearl River in downtown Guangzhou was SPECTACULAR, and their visual effects were heightened by the fact that the teachers from English First that I came with brought LOTS of beer.

I’ve since come to realize that there are NUMEROUS times throughout the year that one group or another is celebrating the New Year:

Oshogatsu, the Japanese New Year, is now also commemorated on January 1, but for most of the country’s history, it was a lunar event, which meant it usually coincided with the Chinese New Year.

Although most of the world now uses the Gregorian calendar, some members of the Eastern Orthodox churches still use the Julian calendar. On THAT calendar, January 1 corresponds to January 14 on the Gregorian calendar, which means that Eastern Orthodox churches actually celebrate the New Year on January 14.

Followers of the Baha’I religion celebrate Naw-Ruz on the vernal equinox, which is normally around March 21.

Until England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, March 25 (the feast of the Annunciation) marked the official start of the New Year.

The celebration REALLY gets confusing for the Buddhists throughout the world because the date of the celebration of the New Year varies by country of origin.

In Theravadin countries (Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Laos), the New Year is celebrated for three days from the first full moon day in April. In Mahayana countries, the New Year starts on the first full moon day in January. However, the Buddhist New Year depends on the country of origin or ethnic background of the people. Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese celebrate late January or early February according to the lunar calendar, while the Tibetans usually celebrate about one month later.

The New Year date gets even MORE confusing for the Hindus since there is NO single date for the celebration. Various Hindu cultures use different dates, but most of them are in March or April.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, falls on the Hebrew calendar date of 10 Tishrei. Since the Hebrew calendar is different from the Gregorian calendar, the date shifts each year. In 2009, Jewish people will celebrate THEIR New Year on September 28.

The Islamic New Year is a cultural event which Muslims observe on the first day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. Since it is also a lunar date, it changes every year. In 2009, the actual date will be on December 18.

I recently discovered that October 31, a date I normally associate with Halloween, is also the Celtic New Year. Since my ancestors are all from Ireland, that little tidbit caught my attention.

Belfast-born Van Morrison, wrote a song about the event. The lyrics, as well as the music, are shown below:

If I don't see you through the week
See you through the window
See you next time that we're talking on the telephone
And don't see you in that Indian summer
Then I want to see you further on up the road

I said, Oh won't you come back?
I have to see you, my dear
Won't you come back in the Celtic New Year?
In the Celtic New Year?

If I don't see you when I'm going down Louisiana
If I don't see you when I'm down on Bourbon Street
If you don't see me when I'm singing, Jack of diamonds
If you don't see me when I'm on my lucky streak

Whoa, I want you, want you to come on back
I've made it very clear
I want you to come back home in the Celtic New Year
Celtic New Year

If I don't see you when the bonfires are burning, burning
If I don't see you when we're singing, The Gloriana tune
If I've got to see you when it's raining deep inside the forest
I got to see you at the waning of the moon

Said, Oh, won't you come on back?
Want you to be of good cheer
Come back home on the Celtic New Year

Celtic New Year
Celtic New Year
Celtic New Year

Come on home, come on home
Come on home, come on home
In the Celtic New Year
In the Celtic New Year

Come on home, come on home
Come on home, come on home
In the Celtic New Year

Next December 31, as you watch that 12,000 pound ball drop towards Times Square, and you listen to yet another rendition of that old Scottish tune popularized by Guy Lombardo, and written by Robert Burns in 1788, take delight in the fact that January 1 is just the first of a long chain of celebrations throughout the year.

Dick Clark, the world’s oldest teenager, is going to have a hard time keeping up!


  1. Fascinating history. Thank you for sharing! I enjoy learning more about Asian cultures. I wish I were brave enough to go abroad. The closest I've gotten is to study Japanese at home and buy the book "A Broad in Japan" - both a pun and filled with useful information for woman who want to make a life there. Perhaps, through inspiration such as yours, I might yet venture beyond the West.

  2. Another wonderfully written informative piece. Thank you.

  3. Darla:

    Teaching jobs in China are PLENTIFUL if you are a native English speaker. After I was there a while, I was getting job offers every week.

    One example is attached below:


    Teaching Jobs at CSCIEE English Immersion Program in Beijing, China‏
    From: Teach in China (
    Medium riskYou may not know this sender.Mark as safe|Mark as junk
    Sent: Mon 3/30/09 8:59 PM

    Attachments: 1 attachment
    Job descr...doc (26.0 KB)

    Teaching Jobs at CSCIEE English Immersion Program in Beijing, China

    CSCIEE English Immersion Program offers an excellent teaching and learning opportunity for people from major English-speaking countries. Our program schools are among the best schools in Beijing, where foreign teachers work in a typical classroom setting. As China’s national capital and a metropolitan city, Beijing has remarkable cultural heritage and amazing modern development. Living in the compounds where local people live gives foreign teachers an authentic flavor of the local life, and facilitates them to acquire a better understanding of the traditional Chinese culture and society.

    We have now started recruiting foreign teachers working for the School Year of Fall 2009-Spring 2010. For more information about the teaching jobs, please see the attached file on Job Description.

    Thank you for your attention.


    Jun Zhou
    Director for Teacher Recruitment

    CSCIEE English Immersion Program (Liaison Office):
    Longhua Weiye Office Building, Room 213
    No. 127, Xin Wen Hua Jie,
    Xicheng District, Beijing, 100031, China
    Phone/Fax: (86-10)67604256


    My daughter and I bought taught initially at a company called English First, which has 53 branches throughout China .. if you ever decide to make the leap, English First may be a good place to start ...