New Year's Eve: Names for the Turn of the Year Worldwide

All over the world the change from the old year to the new is celebrated once a year. But there is more than just New Year's Eve as a name for it: we take a trip around the globe and to the different names that New Year's celebrations bear.

happy 2019

Name for the New Year in the Western World

The turn of the year is celebrated on the night of 31 December to 1 January of the Gregorian calendar in Western countries. The last day of the year is the day of death and the saint's day of Pope Sylvester I. That's why the last day of the year is called Silvester in many countries. These countries include, amongst others, Austria, the Balkan states, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, and Poland.

Another name for 31 December in many countries is some variation of Old Year's Night. It is called Oudejaarsavond in the Netherlands, Old Year's Night in the Caribbean and Iceland, Nochevieja in Spain, Nytårsaften in Denmark, Uusivuosi in Finland, and New Year's Eve in many English-speaking countries.

The Scottish word for the last day of the year and the Scottish New Year is Hogmanay. It is not clear whether the word has French, Nordic and Celtic roots. In Wales, New Year is also called Calennig which is of Latin origin, meaning the first day of the month.

In various countries such as France, Brazil, Portugal and Romania, New Year's Eve is also called Reveillon. The name is derived from the word for staying awake because you don't go to sleep until after the new year has dawned.

The last day of the Gregorian year bears many other names around the globe: it's Araw ng Bagong Taon in the Philippines, Malam Tahun Baru in Malaysia, Viti i ri in Albania, and Oud en Nieuw (Old and New) in the Netherlands.

Name for the New Year in Asia

In most Asian countries, New Year is the most important festival of the year. It sometimes takes place around the same time as the Western New Year, but usually, it is celebrated in January or February.

The date is based mostly on the Chinese New Year. In China, it is celebrated for 15 days and also plays an important role in other countries with Chinese populations (eg, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia). The festival bears different names and meanings, such as Guo Nian (Pass the Year) or Chunjie (Spring Festival).

In Vietnam, the New Year is called Tết Nguyên Djan (or Tết). It means Feast for the First Morning of the First Day in Vietnamese. The name is known in the Western world due to the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War which started with the new year's celebrations.

The Korean New Year is called Seollal or Gujeong. It lasts from 1 January up to 3 January of the Gregorian calendar. The Mongolian New Year is called Tsagaan Sar (White Moon), and its date is based on the Chinese New Year. The same date also applies to the Tibetan new year which is called Losar (Lo = year, Sar = new).

The Japanese New Year is called Oshōgatsu. The day before the New Year is called Omisoka (Last of the Last Days of the Month) and takes place on 31 December. In Japan, a few weeks later another festival called Koshōgatsu (Little New Year) is celebrated which takes place during the first full moon of the new year.

Name for New Year Celebrations by the Thai Lunar Calendar

In many Southeast Asian countries, the New Year festival of Songkran is celebrated. The name refers to the passage of the sun from the constellation Pisces into the constellation Aries which marks the beginning of the new year. Thailand and Laos are amongst the countries which celebrate Songkran. Other Southeast Asian countries also know it but have their own names for the festival.

In Myanmar, the New Year is called Thingyan; in Cambodia Chaul Chnam Thmey, in Sri Lanka Aluth Avurudda. The Tamils call it ​​Puthandu and at the Bengals know it as Pohela Boishakh. It is called the Festival of Water Throwing with the people of the Dai in China because the festival is associated with various traditional water rituals.

Name for the New Year in the Middle East

Because there are various cultures prevalent in the Middle East, different beginnings of the year are celebrated. One speaks of Ras as-Sana in Arabic, no matter if talking about the Gregorian New Year, the Islamic New Year or the Jewish New Year.

The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah (Head of the New Year) in Hebrew. This is not its real name from the religious writings, though: The proper name for the Jewish New Year is Yom Teruah (Day of Making a Noise), or Feast of Trumpets.

The Persian New Year is celebrated under the name Nowruz (New Day) in Iran. The festival is also popular in other countries such as Afghanistan, Georgia, Syria, and Turkmenistan.


Even if you're not reading this article at the turn of the year: Happy (New) Year! :-)

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