One of the great gifts of a career that runs on a school calendar is that we can claim at least two “New Years” each year. We start the school year (whenever it begins) with resolutions to be our best teaching selves, and then, in January, we have another chance for a fresh start. So January 1 is a fine time to celebrate the creativity of New Year’s celebrations across the globe. It is another one of those experiences that is both shared and unique to each culture. And there are lots of places to see it! Did you know that in many South American countries, you would carefully select the color of your underwear to reflect your wish for the new year? Wear yellow for riches, red for love, white for peace. In Mexico, you would eat 12 grapes, exactly at midnight. Take a look at some of the celebrations in this video from CNN.
If you’d like to see more, FatherTimes.net has short descriptions of New Years in over 60 countries, or, perhaps my favorite, enjoy this slideshow of lucky New Year’s traditions from NBC. I love the swiss “Silvesterchlaus” (New Years Claus), who walks the roads covered with greens and cow bells, helmeted Chinese awaiting a shower of firecrackers, and the Scottish fireball twirlers–and that’s just the beginning. (If using these photos in school, be sure to preview so you can click past any that might be inappropriate for your students. Not all classes can handle the bathing-suited woman being showered with lucky yellow flowers!)
There are several websites offering school-specific websites for studying New Year’s traditions. Here’s a webquest from Education World and New Year’s Information from Scholastic. But whatever resources you choose to use, be sure to think about the creativity with which each culture approaches the new year.
Look across the cultures for common themes. Certainly your students will find themes of renewal and good luck. What else might be repeated from one culture to the next?
How might those ideas be expressed in your own culture? Think about what is unique to your area. What might symbolize good luck or new beginnings in your particular area? Maybe in Michigan we should eat (frozen) cherries for luck, or paint something green in hopes things will grow again, come spring. Floridians might build lucky sculptures of oranges (the higher the tower, the more luck?) or Australians portray Father Time emerging from warm ocean waves. All these traditions had to start with someone–why can’t your class (or family) invent your own? Enjoy–and Happy New Year!