In the U.S., December 31 is a big deal. At midnight, right when it's turning January 1, a giant ball drops, we scream, spill some champagne, and make future promises we can’t keep. But for billions -- yes, billions! -- of people around the world, it's March 21 or September 11 or February 20 that marks the beginning of a new year, new promises, and revelry. We, users of the Gregorian calendar, might not notice the lunar, Hebrew, or even Tibetan losar cycles. Just in case you want to redo your New Year celebration -- or come up with a more realistic resolution -- here are some dates to keep in mind.
Lunar New Year: Celebrated by countries like China, Vietnam, and Korea, the first day of the lunar calendar normally falls between January 20 and February 20. Celebrations can last up to 15 days, and often involve lots of feasting and family time.
Songkran (Thai New Year): This year Songkran falls between April 13 and 15. Enjoy the locals splashing water in the heat, symbolizing the washing away of misfortune to bring on a clean start. It's also a time for good will, in which celebrants visit temples, cook for monks, and clean their homes and businesses.
Russian “Old New Year”: Russia formally adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1918, but the country still informally celebrates the Julian New Year on January 14 with caroling and a large family meal being served. The celebration is typically much quieter compared to the revelry of January 1.
Macedonian “Old New Year”: Similarly, Macedonians around the world celebrate New Year on January 14. The celebration includes fireworks, bonfires, drinking, and devouring pita.
Serbian New Year (Orthodox New Year): Many Serbs also still follow the church’s new year on January 14th -- although you’ll still find plenty of New Year celebrations on January 1st.
Hen Galan (Pembrokeshire, Wales): This tiny Welsh town stubbornly refused to acknowledge the Gregorian New Year, so they continue celebrating with the ancient Julian system on January 14. Children are given small gifts, like sweets, fruit, or money.
Nowruz (Iranian New Year): For Iranians, the first day of spring, March 20, marks a new year. Those observing the holiday set their tables with seven items that start with the letter "s." Another item placed on the table is a mirror, a symbol of reflection on the past year.
Rosy Hashanah (Israel): Rosh Hashanah occurs 163 days after the first day of Passover. It occurs at some point in September or October -- and it never falls on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday. Observants mark the period by reflecting on their actions throughout the previous year and pray for forgiveness. Challah, dipped in honey, is served during a meal shared by family and friends.
Diwali (India): Depending on the Indian region, Indians may celebrate Diwali around March 23-24, mid-April, or in mid-autumn. The holiday this year will begin on November 11. Those participating in Diwali festivities usually light special candles and exchange gifts and sweets. At bigger celebrations, fireworks color the night's sky.
Tibetan Losar (Tibet): This crazy day -- technically lasting 15 days -- can fall anywhere from January to March. In 2015, it falls February 19-21. Count on music, chanting, costumes, and decorated monasteries.
Ethiopian New Year: September 11 is the first day of the New Year in Ethiopia, during which family and friends gather together, and children don new clothing.
Cambodian New Year: This holiday, which will take place on April 13 this year, is characterized by visiting shrines, giving to charity, and dancing and playing games.