January 1st is an important date in Greece because it is not only the first day of the New Year but it is also St. Basil’s Day. St Basil was one the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church.
He is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor. He is thought to have died on this date so this is how they honor him.
A special New Year’s bread is baked with a coin buried in the dough. The first slice is for the Christ child; the second for the father of the household and the third slice is for the house. If the third slice holds the coin, spring will come early that year.
In Hungary they burn effigies or a scapegoat known as “Jack Straw” which represented the evils and misfortunes of the past year to burn on New Year’s Eve. Jack Straw is carried around the village before being burnt.
The Muslims have their own calendar which is based on the cycles of the moon. The calendar consists of twelve months but, only has 354 days unlike other calendars such as the Gregorian or Jewish calendar etc.
For this reason the Islamic New Year moves eleven days backwards through the seasons each year. Muharram is the first month of the Muslim year its first day is celebrated as New Year’s Day. The Islamic New Year throughout the world is held quietly, without the festive atmosphere of other New Year celebrations.
The first day of the lunar New Year is called Sol-nal. This is for families to renew ties and prepare for the new year. New Year’s Eve: People place straw scoopers, rakes or sieves on their doors and walls to protect their families from evil spirit sin the new year.
Everyone dresses in new clothes, the following morning, symbolizing a fresh beginning, and gathers at the home of the eldest male family member. Ancestral memorial rites are held, then the younger generation bows to elders in the family. They wish them good health and prosperity in the coming year.
The Japanese New Year Oshogatsu is an important time for family celebrations, when all the shops, factories and offices are closed. The Japanese decorate their homes in tribute to lucky gods.
One tradition, kadomatsu, consists of a pine branch symbolizing longevity, a bamboo stalk symbolizing prosperity, and a plum blossom showing nobility.
In Poland New Year’s Eve is known as St Sylvester’s Eve. This name according to legends arose from Pope Sylvester I who was supposed to have imprisoned a dragon called Leviathan who was supposedly able to escape on the first day of the year 1000, devour the land and the people, and was suppose to have set fire to the heavens.
On New Year’s Day, when the world did not come to an end, there was great rejoicing and from then on this day was called St Sylvester’s Eve.
The Portuguese pick and eat twelve grapes from a bunch as the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve. This is done to ensure twelve happy months in the coming year. In Northern Portugal children go caroling from home to home and are given treats and coins. They sing old songs or Janeiro’s which is said to bring good luck.