Counting down and watching the ball drop is one way to celebrate the beginning of a new year, but there are other traditions around the world that embrace the new year differently.
Ann Webb, a senior in parks and recreation, celebrates the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. Also called Yom Ha-Zikkaron, it means “head of the year” and is considered one of the most important dates on the Jewish calendar.
“My mom and dad both moved from Israel when they were in college,” Webb said. “Growing up, both were very observant to the faith and strict on how their behavior would be. My brother and I were both raised to follow the word of the Lord very directly, especially on Rosh Hashanah.”
Traditions during this holiday include extended prayer at the synagogue and special cleansing rituals.
“We do this thing called Tashlikh, where we go down to the river and empty your pockets; this symbolizes having your sins flow away,” Webb said. “Another tradition I like is honey dipping. You take apples, bread, etc. and dip them into honey to share the sweet new year.”
Rosh Hashanah goes from sunset on Sept. 13 through nightfall on Sept. 15. Webb said her family celebrates both American and Jewish New Year’s.
Norooz is another special New Year’s holiday primarily celebrated in the Persian culture. Similar to Jewish New Year, the date changes every year. It’s celebrated on March 21 this year for 12 days and lines up with the vernal equinox instead of the Gregorian calendar. The date symbolizes the beginning of spring, a moment to start anew. Ali Mahdavi, an undeclared sophomore, visited Iran last year to be a part of the celebrations.
“There was so much color, family everywhere and so much general excitement,” Mahdavi said.
Traditions during Norooz include a full table set up with traditional decorations from food to goldfish to painted eggs.
“What I enjoyed best was the jumping of the flame,” Mahdavi said. “That tradition is done by lighting a little fire, something that looks like a small bonfire, and jumping over it and yelling ‘Zardie man az to sorkhie to az man.’ This saying basically means something like, ‘here’s to maintain a healthy glow in the new year.’ ”
Mahdavi also celebrates New Year’s in the American tradition and appreciates the cultural meanings.
“One thing that I like between my American New Year’s and my Iranian one is that the message is the same,” Mahdavi said. “No matter what language you speak or when you celebrate, the New Year is a chance for reinvention and fun. I am just lucky that I get to do that twice.”