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New Year: A time for new beginnings

New Year’s Day is the oldest of all holidays. About 4000 years ago, the Babylonians celebration lasted for eleven days. New Year’s day according to the Gregorian calendar (January 1) is one of the most popular occasions in India. Many people throughout the world celebrate this festive occasion with their loved ones or in large gatherings. Exchanging messages, greeting cards and gifts are a part and parcel of the New Year celebration. The media too covers many New Year events which are showcased on prime channels for most of the day. People who decide to stay indoors resort to these New Year shows for entertainment and fun. The age-old tradition of planning new resolutions for the coming year is a common sight among children and adults.

India is a land of various communities and each community celebrates its New Year in a different way.  In Maharashtra, it is celebrated on the first day of Chaitra. The day is called ‘Gudi Padva’ by the Maharashtrian community. On this day, people get up early in the morning and wear traditional clothes. Outside the house or on the verandahs or balconies, the Gudi is put up. It is a long pole which is covered on the top with a silk cloth. A small garland of mango leaves is placed on it and a silver, copper or brass pot is inverted over it. Tamilians celebrate their New Year on April 13. It is called ‘Vashaparapu’ by the Tamilians, meaning beginning of the year.  Some Tamilians follow the tradition of keeping a mirror and a plate of sweets, fruits and money before the image of their God whom they worship. Gujaratis celebrate their New Year by visiting friends and relatives and taking their blessings on the day following Diwali. Muslims celebrate their New Year before the start of the Islamic year. The Parsis celebrate their New Year which is known as Pateti in August with prayers, greetings and giving away of alms to the poor. The Bengalis celebrate their New Year on the first day of Vaisakh, the month following Chaitra, which is considered the first month of the year by many Hindus. Christians celebrate their New Year on January 1 with a lot of merriment. New Year celebrations are also popular in other parts of the world and each community keeps celebrating it in one way or the other.

In some places, a figure resembling an old man is made. The figure signifies all that should be dispensed with, such as evil thoughts, bad behaviour, and so on. The figure stands on a road or in lanes and passersby often drop money into the box that is kept beside it. The effigy is set on fire at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. The burning of the effigy signifies the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one. The money collected is used for partying by the people who have made the effigy. Most of us have forgotten that the New Year is not only a time for revelry but also for reflection.

New Year is a time to celebrate the start of something new. It is a time to make new promises, some to be broken, some to be kept. It is also a time to look ahead and try to change things for the better. It is also a time to look behind and see what we may have done wrong, and how to change it. It is also an occasion to start new friendships and request for forgiveness from your enemies. New Year is a joyous time because we feel like we get to start all over again. On New Year’s Day, people are happy, laughing, giggling and sharing about events of the past year and those before. A Happy New Year to one and all.

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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