Religion & New Years: When January 1st isn’t New Year’s Day


Globally, people celebrate the coming of a new year with many traditions, customs and activities. However, not all cultures and religions celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1st.

Photo Credit: NataschaM


Known as Naw Ruz or “New Day”, the first day of the Baha’i new year occurs on the Vernal Equinox (the first day of Spring). Baha’is fast for nineteen days leading up to the holiday. The fast is broken on the morning of Naw Ruz with Baha’is taking part in a great feast. Many with tables are decorated with Haft Sin; fruits, cakes and colored eggs. The celebration corresponds with the Persian/Iranian New Year, also known as Nowruz, NoRuz, NoRooz, or Noruz.


Traditions celebrating the Hindu Deepawali/Diwali in mid-October to mid-November, (according to the position of the moon) vary from region to region. However, the universal theme of the triumph of Good/Light over Evil/Darkness is the foundation for all observances. Before Deepawali, people decorate and light their homes with diyas – lamps, prepare sweets and buy new clothes. Literally meaning “rows of diyas,” Diwali – Festival of Lights – symbolizes victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. Homes are spruced up and cleaned and decorative designs are painted on walls and floors. Relatives gather, offering prayers and giving diwalilampsweets. Celebrated over five days, each day is dedicated to a special philosophy or ideal.


The Islamic New Year begins on the first day of the first month (Muharram) of the Islamic calendar and is known as 1 Muharram. It is generally observed with quiet reflection and prayers.


Rosh Hashanah, New Years Day on the Jewish calendar, begins a 10 day period known as the High Holy Days – a time of penitence and prayer that ends with Yom Kippur. The holiday is observed the first and second day of the month of Tishri, usually falling during September. It is believed that on Rosh Hashanah the destiny of all mankind is recorded by G-d in the Book of Life. On Yom Kippur the Book is closed and sealed. Those that have repented for their sins are granted a good and happy New Year.

The centuries of customs and traditions, prayers, offerings and joyful celebrations that have marked the ending of one year and the beginning of a new year encircles the earth throughout the calendar. Good fortune! Great prosperity! Happy New Year!