This originally appeared as an Interfaith Insight.
As we’re celebrating the New Year tonight and tomorrow, I thought I would mention a few of the other New Year celebrations, and what they can teach us about the annual tradition.
For the Jewish community, Rosh Hashanah, or Yamim Nora’im–“Days of Awe”–is the high holy day celebrated in early autumn. It commemorates Earth’s birthday, or the anniversary of the first humans, as marked in the Book of Genesis with Adam and Eve.
The Islamic New Year, which ranges in date based on astronomical calculations, is the day which marks the beginning of the new Islamic calendar year. This holiday is connected to the first pilgrimage: the Hijra that Muhammed took from Mecca to Medina in 610 AD.
There are also new year celebrations that aren’t necessarily religious, like the Chinese New Year, which this year is January 31, 2014. The origin of this holiday is based on several myths and traditions, and has been celebrated in every country with a Chinese community-ranging from China to the Philippines to Chinatowns in the US.
All of these celebrations connect communities to their past; they connect people to where they come from. These origin stories of various religions and cultures remind people during their New Years to reflect on their community’s narrative by celebrating together.
We often mark the end of the year with “Best of 2013” lists, but what if we went farther back than that — what if we connected our celebration to the larger stories of our communities and cultures? As the ball drops tonight, let’s try to think about what that story is.