Vietnam: Tet, February 19
How to say “Happy New Year”: Chuc mung nam moi!
Seven days before the full moon, the Vietnamese begin polishing up for Tết Nguyên Đán, the “festival of the first day,” simply known as Tet. A focus on purity makes for tame traditions, such as cleaning and buying new clothes, but for visitors, it means heaps of special foods such as candied lotus seeds and sweet sticky rice cakes as well as cities all done-up. Hanoi glitters with light displays and fireworks behind its Opera House, and Ho Chi Minh’s main stretch of Nguyen Hue transforms into Flower Street for a week, filling with magnificent luck-bringing floral displays.
Tibet: Losar, February 19
How to say “Happy New Year”: Lo sar bzang!
Equal parts rowdy and religious, Losar fills three days following the lunar new year with guru consultations and sacred rituals to please dharma protectors, liberal feasting and drinking of chang, or rice beer. For the most glitz and clamor, join the pilgrimage of thousands to Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu, where the new year is rung in by monks blasting long copper horns, followed by dancing, singing, and the throwing of tsampa, or barley flour.
Iran: Nowruz, March 21
How to say “Happy New Year”: Nowruz mobarak!
A 13-day-long celebration beginning on the spring equinox, this holiday of the “new day” is full of wild traditions: jumping over bonfires to symbolize light winning over darkness, trick-or-treating in honor of visiting ancestral spirits, the seven-part Haft-Seen feasts, and large family picnics. The holiday spans the Middle East but is most kinetic in Iran where it originated; the ancient ceremonial capital of Persepolis is thought to have been built for the holiday, but now celebrations concentrate in the nearby city of Shiraz.
Indonesia: Nyepi, March 21
How to say “Happy New Year”: Selamat hari raya Nyepi!
In unusually quiet fashion for the Island of the Gods, Bali closes its doors and turns off its lights one day each year for Nyepi, the Hindu Day of Silence. That said, the three days leading up to the new moon that marks the holiday are filled with parades of mythical creatures made of papier-mâché called ogoh-ogoh, the banging of pots and pans to chase away bad spirits, and trips to seaside temples to purify sacred objects. Head to Tanah Lot on the west coast or Pura Luhur Uluwatu in the south to see the latter, but then prepare for 24 hours of silence on the 21st, requiring everyone to stay indoors and use minimal electricity, letting the night fittingly be lit only by moonlight.