It has been a few days and I have not posted anything of note with regard to New Years as promised. What does New Year mean for me as Jew? It means renewed hope as I call on G-D's mercy as a Jew and try to make the new year a better one, a more worthwhile one. I look at the previous years goals and how did I achieve them? Were they worthwhile goals or superficial ones. Was I unrealistic and tried to take on too much? That is also important, as well as not underestimating oneself. For us as Jews the New Year or Rosh Hashana (literally Head of the Year) is a very important time. It is one of spiritual repentance and remembrance of G-D and how G-D's mercy sustains us all in this world. It is not a time for getting drunk and wild revelry doing things that we would not normally do and making the excuse that we are too drunk or inebriated to know what we were doing. Not at all. It is a time when we really do pay attention to the minutest detail of our behaviour and endeavour to admit to it, face up to it and correct it, not to conceal it or cover it up.
Here are some differences that I have noted.
Jewish New Year is about family getting together at shule and later for a meal together. It is about making a tikkun or correction in our self and our behaviour. We check Mezuzot, we clean windows and it is a different sort of cleaning pesach cleaning. We clean our neshamot or souls of anger and hatred and focus on our relationships both with G-D and with others. It is a whole experience. Before Yom Kippur we go to the Mikveh (ritual bath) and on Yom Kippur we fast. In the month of the New Year Tishrei we also remember who we are and G-D mercy, we dwell in booths or succot and on Simchat Torah and Shmini Atzeret we come together as a nation to celebrate and be joyous over the Torah. Even then we should not get so intoxicated that we forget who we are. It is about remembering who we are.
So totally different really from the secular new year where getting as intoxicated as possible, locking lips with any person male or female at midnight, dancing around in mindless joy, watching fireworks, drinking again and vomiting in the gutter and staggering home on public transport or any taxi foolish enough to pick up such a person. There are people who do celebrate in a far more sober and serious fashion but they are not the main trend of celebrating. Most people are proud not to have a recollection of their new year which kind of defeats the purpose of a new year and a new start to another stage in one's life. It seems to be forgetting who we are.
Islam does not celebrate New Year or Hijri which is on 1 Muharram in the Islamic calendar and belongs to one of their three forbidden months where they are apparently not allowed to fight or have battles. It is also the date of one of Mohammed's sons being killed. It is a pity that the 'religion of peace' did not have more forbidden to fight months and do they observe this edict?
Chinese New Year is usually around the end of January or beginning of February. They see off the ghosts of the old year with lots of firecrackers and give out red envelopes with money to children and the poor some do. There are dragon dances which are highly significant and symbolic. Celebrations start on the first of the month and continue until the fifteen and the festival of lanterns. It is very much a family time and a time of getting together to work on the new. They wear red clothes to symbolise fire which burns out the old year and all the old bad spirits.
Hindu New Year is held this year in most Hindu countries around the middle of April and I will cut and paste some information on it here.
Hindu New Year time is the time of celebration. It is the time to meet and greet people. It is believed that this time of the year brings lot of hope and prosperity to the community. People celebrate the beginning of the year in different special ways. Few ways of celebration are:
- Oil lamps are lit in front of the house
- Rangolis are made with pink, red, purple and yellow flowers
- New clothes are worn
- Goddess Laxmi and Lord Ganesha are worshipped
- Gifts and sweets are exchanged
- They also believe it is a time to plough and turn over the soil which makes sense for an agricultural society.