Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Delocalization and Globalization of Holidays

It seems curious that New Year's Day is such a global event. At least that is the way the media, especially television, make it seem. Has it always been this way? Or is this one more manifestation of the events-as-economic-primers phenomenon? Was the tipping point Y2K, and the anxious observation of the sweep of the year change around the world (to not miss seeing anything that went awry)?

One might suppose that New Year's Day's success is owed to its universality and non-religious nature: people of all faiths, and atheists, too, can celebrate the annual completion of our planet's cyclic loop around our heating system, the sun. Just as having the sun rise each morning is reassuring, and the lunar cycles are, too, it is nice to know that our planet made it back "home" again safely. Yet, earth is never "parked in the garage", it has no home other than its trajectory, has it? So the choice of when to celebrate is not so universal, nor non-religious, is it? Wikipedia lists a dozen different New Year celebrations, and almost all have religious bases:

The most common modern celebrations are (expressed in terms of the Gregorian calendar, and arbitrarily beginning after the May-August period, which is virtually never chosen):

  • Between 5 September and 5 October: Rosh Hashanah.
  • 11 September: The Ethiopian New Year, Enkutatash, although the first day of their calendar is 29 or 30 August.
  • Around 1 November: some neo-pagans celebrate Samhain (a festival of the ancient Celts, held ) as a new year's day representing the new cycle of the Wheel of the Year, although they do not use a different calendar that starts on this day.
  • Mid-November: the Hindu New Year is celebrated usually two days after the festival of Diwali .
  • 1 January : The first day of the year in the used by most developed [sic] countries.
  • 14 January: in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the New Year (also celebrating the infant Jesus' circumcision).
  • 21 January to 21 February inclusive: the occurs every year at a new moon during the winter. The Vietnamese New Year is the Têt Nguyen Dan. It is celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year.
  • January through March (first through third days of the first lunar month): the Tibetan New Year is Losar.
  • 21 March --the vernal equinox: in the Bahá'í calendar, and is called Naw-Rúz.
  • 21 March(?)--the vernal equinox: the Iranian New Year, called Norouz.
  • March or April (date?): the Telugu New Year ; the people of Andhra Pradesh, India celebrate the advent of Lunar year this day.
  • 13 April to 15 April: the Thai New Year ,the Cambodian New Year , the Lao New Year.
  • 14 April or 15 April: the Bengali New Year, Poila Baisakh , in both Bangladesh and West Bengal.
  • Various: The Islamic New Year is celebrated on 1 Muharram. Since the Muslim calendar is based on 12 lunar months amounting to about 354 days, the Gregorian date of this is earlier each year. 2008 will see two Muslim New Years.

Another view of New Year is the fiscal one. Businesses and governments typically choose to manage their bookkeeping (budgets, P+L, income) for twelve months offset from the calendar year; 1 April to 30 March, 1 July to 30 June, and 1 October to 30 September are common choices (shifts of quarter-years).

Then there are academic years (or school years), and vacation years (not to be confused with sabbaticals).

Last week, midway between Roman Christmas and Gregorian New Year, a security hole in Microsoft Windows was discovered, one for which Microsoft has not yet published a patch (nor made much effort to warn customers about, it seems). No doubt, it is hard to muster the necessary talent during this festive period. Once Microsoft shift more of their research (and support?) talent to rely on India and China, where the holiday periods are not the same, they might have more response capability at all times of the year; this could be a benefit. Or will globalization of holidays sustain the current situation?

Windows users who have not yet done so should consult the security advisories for the WMF vulnerability:
Info at :

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