Celebrating the New Year in Many Cultures


From the desk of ADS Director Cathy Knight

Many of us made a little noise on December 31st, leading up to and maybe even after midnight, celebrating the end of one year, the beginning of another, and a new decade. January 1 is known as the Gregorian New Year and, as a national holiday in the United States, just New Year’s Day. Japanese New Year is the same day. Did you know that more than 20 cultures celebrate New Year’s on a date other than January 1? Here are upcoming dates and more information:

  • Russian New Year (or Novy God): Wednesday, January 1–Wednesday, January 8
  • Eastern Orthodox New Year or “Old New Year”: Tuesday, January 14
  • Chinese New Year, Seollal (Korean New Year), and Tết (Vietnamese New Year) are on Saturday, January 25: Check out Tết In Seattle at Seattle Center on January 18, and the Lunar New Year Celebration & Fair at Wing Luke Museum on January 25.
  • Igbo New Year (Southern Nigeria): Tuesday, February 18
  • Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian New Year): Sunday, February 23
  • Nowruz (Iranian New Year): Thursday, March 19
  • Nyepi (Balinese New Year): Wednesday, March 25 & Thursday, March 26 (put down your noise makers—this is a day for silence and self-reflection)
  • Ugadi (Telegu and Kannada New Year): Wednesday, March 25. The Hindu New Year varies in different regions of India but usually falls in March or April.
  • Kha b-Nisan (Assyrian New Year): April 1
  • Vaisakhi (Sikh New Year): Monday, April 13
  • Songkran (Thai New Year): Monday, April 13–Wednesday, April 15
  • Thingyan (Burmese New Year): Monday, April 13–Thursday, April 16
  • Aluth Avuradda (Sinhalese New Year): Tuesday, April 14 (observed April 13 this year)
  • Pahela Baishakh (Bengali New Year): Tuesday, April 14
  • Cambodian New Year: Tuesday, April 14–Thursday, April 16
  • Puthandu (Tamil New Year—Southern India and Sri Lanka): Tuesday, April 14
  • Ra’s as-Sanah al-HijrῙyah (Islamic New Year): Wednesday, August 19 & Thursday, August 20
  • Enkutatash (Ethiopian New Year): Friday, September 11
  • Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year): Friday, September 18–Sunday, September 20. Typically, there are multiple celebrations in the greater Seattle area, which you can find online closer to the event.
  • Diwali (Marwari and Gujarati New Year): Saturday, November 14, but dates vary. The Diwali festival of lights is celebrated at Seattle Center on Saturday, October 17, 2020.
  • Hmong New Year: dates vary but this is celebrated this year at Seattle Center on November 7.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I missed a new year celebration that is important to you. I appreciate and learn from your cultural awareness and expertise.

Cathy Knight directs Aging and Disability Services, a division of the Seattle Human Services Department and the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County.

Photo credit: Fireworks, by Chris. Accessed 1/10/2020 on Flickr Creative Commons.