The year’s 2020, right? Check the calendar. Yup, that definitely says 2020!
What if someone were to tell you that it wasn’t? What if someone said that the year is actually 108, or if they went the other way and said that it was 4717? Would you believe them?
Well, we’re here to offer you a few different perspectives from around the world. Not all countries have the same calendar. So, whilst you’re going about your day, they might just be celebrating their New Year.
Did you know that North Korea, whilst still running on a Gregorian calendar, does so with a modified version? The calendar is actually known as the Juche calendar and is based on the year in which their first leader, Kim Il Sung was born. This year, 1912, is known as year one on the Juche calendar, leaving their system around 1912 years behind ours. The current year in North Korea is 109. When we’ll all move into 2020, they’ll only be moving up to 109.
The Juche calendar is named after the Juche system, which is the official state ideology of North Korea. North Korea is known as a largely isolated state, which is why you must join one of many North Korea Tours to enter the country. Consequently, on 8 July 1997, the North Korean government decided that one of the ways in which to stress their own independence was by adopting this slightly altered calendar.
However, since 2003, to make things even more complicated, North Korea has – instead of in typical Gregorian fashion – started to celebrate the new year during the lunar new year. This is the same as their southerly neighbor South Korea, and the huge country to the west: China.
Whilst some things in North Korea might require a guide to get used to, the country celebrates the New year in a pretty similar manner as other countries. On the day (or night if you want to get really technical) they take to the streets in Pyongyang to see a huge and impressive fireworks display. Folk festivals are put on and communities come together to celebrate another year gone. Kite flying is still pretty common and those who are younger are usually given pocket money by their elders.
Of course, North Korea does incorporate some extra activities which you won’t see in their neighboring states. These include a compulsory visit to the Bronze statues of the founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il. According to reports, these visits take precedence over visits to ancestral tombs and graves of family members.
The Chinese Lunar calendar is probably the second most well-known around the world. As already stated, North Korea uses it to celebrate – along with South Korea and many other east Asian countries. According to the Chinese Lunar year calendar, the current year, as of February 5, 2020, is 4718. A fair bit higher than its Gregorian counterpart.
Whilst the official calendar in China is still the Gregorian calendar, the Chinese lunar calendar is largely used for celebrations and more traditional things. The great thing about having two calendars though is that, if you’re Chinese, you also get to have two birthdays!
The Chinese lunar New Year is celebrated nearly everywhere in the world, so if you’ve ever lived in a big city, you’ve probably come into contact with it at some point. London is known for having a particularly big event in its Chinatown, to usher in good fortune and luck.
In China itself, the event is huge and known for being the largest migration of humans on the planet, every year. People will make their way from one side of the country, where they work, to get back to family and eat a New Year’s meal with them. Some will take motorbikes – as part of the largest motorbike flotilla in the world – across the country, which intrepid travelers can get in on and be a part of. Children will usually be given things called ‘red packets’, which contain (usually large) sums of money to support the child through their studies and life.
Fireworks are of course incredibly welcome. Whilst many big cities have started placing restrictions on launching fireworks privately, there are still big events everywhere. If you head to Shanghai or Beijing, expect to find New Year revelers in the streets late into the night. Also, expect the place to sound like a war zone due to all the fireworks.
1441: that’s the current year according to the Islamic calendar used in Saudi Arabia. Whilst the country also uses the standard Gregorian calendar, similar to China, they use the Islamic calendar to celebrate their traditions and festivals. Moreover, most events are usually provided with two dates, both the Gregorian and Islamic.
The calendar is slightly shorter than its western counterpart, meaning that New Year falls on different days each year. For 2019, New Year is on 1 September. Last year, it was on 12 September, and in 2020 (or their 1441) the new year celebrations will be held on 21 August.
Known as the Hijri New Year, Saudi Arabia doesn’t celebrate in the same way as many other countries. Instead of being a big party with lots of people involved, it is usually a time for self-reflection and thinking about the history of their country, people, and religion. This certainly isn’t hard with one of the most iconic places for Muslim worship in the world. Whilst many families will get together to celebrate the festival, it is a rather more solemn affair than in many other places around the world.
Of course, for different denominations of the Muslim faith, the date has different meanings. Whilst traveling into Saudi Arabia during the Islamic New Year may be an interesting trip – one which offers an intriguing look at a different culture – don’t expect to be able to party your way late into the night.
Do you know any other countries where the date isn’t 2020?