Whether your English learners celebrate the New Year on January 1st or not, they will enjoy learning about some famous New Year’s Eve celebrations taking place on December 31st. This is also a great springboard to having your ELs talk and write about their own New Year’s celebrations. Students can also learn how to say “Happy New Year” in a variety of languages.
New Year’s Eve in Time’s Square, New York City, USA
After the New Year’s Eve Ball is lit up in Times Square just before midnight, a commemorative bell is rung, marking the beginning of the 60 second countdown.
The Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball is a 12-foot geodesic ball weighing 11,875 pounds and covered in 2,668 Waterford Crystals. The Ball is creates more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns producing a spectacular kaleidoscope effect. At the stroke of midnight, the lights on the New Year’s Eve Ball are turned off as the numerals of the New Year “2015” will shine high above Times Square.
Hogmanay in Scotland
Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year, is celebrated on the 31st of December every year. In Edinburgh, the New Year’s celebration is a huge festival. The March of 1000 Pipers begins at Edinburgh castle and pipes its way down to Holyrood palace. When the bells of Big Ben in London chime at the turn of midnight, everyone kisses and sings Auld Lang Syne.
In many parts of Scotland, “firstfooting,” and Scottish dances, or ceilidhs, take place. For centuries, torch light processions have played an important part in the Hogmanay celebrations. The fire at Hogmanay symbolizes how the light of knowledge is brought from one year to the next. It carries forward the light of hope to a better world.
The New Year’s Day Mummer’s Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
One of the most unusual New Year’s celebrations in the United States is the Mummer’s Parade on January 1st of each year. A mummer was originally a masked mime that performs folk plays. The Mummer’s Parade features elaborate costumes that rival those in Mardi Gras parades, comedy, and string bands; this parade is truly unique. After your students research the Mummer’s Parade, they can put on their own folk play with masks that they make. The Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade grew out of customs brought to the Philadelphia area by European settlers. The parade dates back to medieval England, where troupes of costumed performers went from house to house presenting a folk drama at Christmas time. Today, over 25,000 Mummers spend a year preparing the ornate costumes of the parade.
New Year’s Day in Japan
People in Japan celebrate the New Year on January 1st. At midnight on December 31st, Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times, symbolizing the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief. It is believed that the tolling of the bells can take away the sins of the past year. Osechi Ryori is traditional New Year’s food in Japan. Foods are eaten for their symbolic meaning. Herring roe [fish egg] is eaten for fertility, black beans for health, dried chestnuts for success, and prawns as omens of happiness. Kagami-mochi, large cakes of steamed rice, are made and displayed in a place of importance in the house.
Have Students Learn About Japanese Activities for New Year’s Day
In your ESL class, Japanese students teach classmates about the different elements of their New Year’s celebration:
- karuta – a card game played by children on New Year’s Day
- hanetsuki – a badminton type game played on New Year’s Day.
- kite flying – a traditional New Year’s activity for boys
- hatsu-mode – an important New Year’s visit by families to Shinto temples to pray for a healthy and happy New Year.
- kado-matsu – pine and bamboo decorations put up outside of homes to celebrate the New Year
- nengajo – New Year’s greeting cards
- otoshidama – money given to children on New Year’s Day
Other Interesting New Year Celebrations
- In Spain, people rush to devour 12 grapes at the start of the new year,eating one with each chime of the clock.
- Peruvians swallow the grapes whole while sitting underneath a table. They also wear yellow underwear.
- It is summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on December 31st. On New Year’s Eve, people go to the beach at midnight and ask Iemanja, the African goddess of waters, to give them good luck. Hundreds of candles are lit in the sand. People throw white flowers into the water as a gift to Iemanja. The celebrations, with drumming and singing, begin at midnight and go on until dawn.
- In many parts of Norway, a traditional lutefisk meal of mashed green peas, bacon, mustard, boiled potatoes, and lutefisk is eaten. This is followed by champagne and marzipan ring cake at midnight. The New Year is greeted with fireworks which light up the night sky.
- In Denmark, people save old dishes and throw them at the doors of their friends’ homes on New Year’s Eve. If you find many broken dishes by your door on New Year’s Day, it is a sign that you have many friends.
Do your students have interesting New Year’s Eve celebrations? Please share them in the comment box.