New Year’s around the world

Hi, this is Aya from the support team at Datawrapper. This week is about calendars and celebrating the coming of a new year. 🐰

It’s twelve days into the new year of 2023, and I’m already behind on my New Year’s resolutions. (One of them was to start writing my Weekly Charts ahead of time, but here I am.) Every time I fail to achieve my resolutions, I just want to hit the reset button and flip the calendar to start afresh. Then I realized, “I can!”

The first day of the new year in the Gregorian calendar might be behind us, but the Chinese New Year is coming up on January 22, a perfect second chance to re-tackle my New Year’s resolutions. That made me wonder, “What about other countries and regions around the world? When do they celebrate their New Year’s?”

Nowadays, a big part of the world celebrates the new year on January 1 according to the Gregorian calendar, including countries that celebrate their traditional new year on a different day. For example, in Japan where I’m from, we celebrate New Year’s on January 1, even though some customs are still influenced by the Chinese lunisolar calendar we used to use before adopting the Gregorian.

Similarly, Orthodox New Year, or Old New Year, is still celebrated as an informal traditional holiday in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe on January 14 — although Ukraine has been moving away from the Orthodox calendar since the Russian invasion.

Lunar, solar, or lunisolar?

Lunar New Year is celebrated widely in China and Chinese communities around the world as well as other countries in East Asia. It follows a lunisolar calendar, in which an extra month is added every two or three years to sync the lunar cycles with the solar seasons. This explains why Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year but is always between late January and mid-February of the Gregorian calendar.

Some New Year’s celebrations around the world have fixed solar dates and fall (more or less) on the same day of the Gregorian calendar every year, like the Ethiopian New Year (September 11 or 12) or the Persian New Year (around March 20).

On the other hand, Muslims around the world celebrate the Islamic New Year on a different solar day each year because they follow a strictly lunar calendar. This is also why the season each holiday falls in changes from year to year, as Rose explained in her Weekly Chart.

Celebrations that defy borders

The map above shows New Year’s celebration by country, but it’s not that simple.

Many countries celebrate multiple dates throughout the year, across different regions and religious, ethnic, and cultural communities. For example, India has New Year’s celebrations almost every other month depending on where you are!

There are so many different calendars around the world. In fact, the Gregorian calendar that we’re so familiar with was only introduced in 1582 and in some countries adopted only recently. (Protestant Germany adopted it in 1700, Greece in 1923, and Saudi Arabia in 2016.)

It turns out that New Year’s celebrations happen throughout the year depending on where in the world you are and which different religious, ethnic, and cultural communities live there. So if you’re looking for another chance to start over, there are plenty of opportunities all year round!

If you got this far, thanks for reading. And whichever New Year(s) you celebrate, wishing you all a great year ahead!