Diverse New Year’s Traditions and Customs Around the World

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Residents of Mianyang, China, dress up for dragon dances to welcome the Year of the Dog on Feb. 16. VCG/Getty Images

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

It is difficult to believe that we have already crossed over into a new year. Even more difficult to believe is that it is now the year 2021. When I was a child the year 2021 seemed like “The future”, yet here we are. Time waits for no one, it just keeps marching forward.

The new year is a wonderful time because it symbolizes a fresh start and reminds us to rethink the direction we are taking or gives an excuse to try something new. In the US tradition, people create a New Year’s resolution to focus on things such as quitting smoking, losing weight or making amends with family. In the US, we celebrate the new year on January 1, but what about other cultures? The History Channel’s website offers a discussion of other culture’s New Year’s customs throughout history and around the world. The website about various new year’s traditions states “Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day). Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.” 

Here are a few sites that offer teaching resources and lesson plans on New Year’s day traditions.

New Year’s Celebrations- Teaching and Learning Resources
Chinese New Year Lesson Plans
Lunar New Year Activities and Teaching Resources
New Year’s Resolutions


  1. New Year’s traditions always were strange to me and honestly, I have slept through at least half of the New Year celebrations. I think it is fun to celebrate a new year and I think as a future educator I will teach my students about different celebrations around the world. Some countries celebrate it on different days so it would be fun to celebrate it in the class and try to do what they do for their culture. In the U.S we try and better ourselves, but other places might continue to be themselves. I think teaching about the different ways the new year is celebrated would be a fun activity to do in a future classroom.

  2. Though we celebrate New Years by eating and being around our families. We often do other things that are common with other cultures and other traditions, such as singing and watching fireworks. The Babylonians made promises to the god to start off on the right foot in the New Year. This is something that in the United States we promise to ourselves or family members.

  3. I believe it’s fantastic that individuals select the new year to create personal objectives. Setting goals throughout the year does not feel the same as objectives for the new year.

  4. It is interesting to see how different cultures celebrate the New Year around the world. Most are surrounded by food, company and making yearly traditions to set goals to “reset” for the year to come. New Years is not usually a holiday that I like to celebrate, just because most of the time it can seem cliché to set traditions for you to improve on throughout the year. It seems as though other cultures celebrate this on a larger scale than we do.

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