Happy New Year!!
I used to assume that the new year began at the start of January, but my interfaith work has taught me that this is a pretty broad over-generalization. January 1st is simply the Gregorian calendar New Year, and there are plenty of people around the world who follow other calendars – at least in their religious life.
As examples, the Jewish New Year is in the fall at Rosh Hashanah. The Wiccan/Neo-Pagan New Year is at Samhain (aka Halloween). And for Muslims, who follow a lunar calendar, the new year moves “back” about 2½ weeks a year. The Islamic New Year fell on about Sept. 1 in 2019 and will fall on about Aug. 20 in 2020.
Here are a couple of the new year holidays that fall in January.
Gantan Sai (Jan. 1): In 1873, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar, so their New Year is on Jan. 1. The Shinto New Year, Gantan Sai, falls on the same day. Those who follow Japan’s folk religion visit Shinto shrines where they pray to the kami (spirit powers) – thanking them for last year’s good fortune and requesting prosperity and good health in the year ahead. Since it’s a major holiday, rituals and festivities can last up to seven days. To learn more, click here.
Mahayana New Year (Jan. 10): A little over half of the world’s Buddhists belong to this branch of Buddhism – which is known for its belief that anyone (even lay people) can achieve Enlightenment in a single lifetime. Typical New Year’s practices include visiting a Buddhist temple, lighting candles, praying, and bathing Buddha statues. The exact date moves around a bit from year to year, but it’s almost always in January. For a brief overview of Mahayana Buddhism, click here.
And a couple of other January holy days…
Guru Gobind Singh’s Birth (Jan. 5): The Sikhs recognize 10 human gurus. Guru Gobind Singh (1667-1708) was the 10th and final one. He was both a warrior and a poet and is best known for establishing the Five K’s – the five articles of faith (uncut hair, wooden comb, iron bracelet, iron dagger, and special undergarment) – that baptized Sikhs wear at all times. He is also known for performing many miracles, even as a young boy named Gobind Rai. Click here for one story.
Three of the five Khalsa objects - comb, bracelet, dagger (Harisingh/Wiki Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
World Religion Day (Jan. 19): This observance, established in 1950 by the Baháʼí s of the United States, honors the unifying principles that religions can offer humanity. Although the holiday originated in the Baháʼí tradition, interfaith/multi-faith events are now held around the globe to promote peace and harmony.