New Year's in Indigenous Communities

New Year's is celebrated all over the world as a symbolic step in someone's life. It is the perfect excuse for us to prepare the heinous list "of good intentions" to do or start doing during the year to come.

If there is something we realized more during 2020, is that it is crucial to explore, meet new cultures, and see how some communities celebrate important festivities. We know that travelling more is on your list for the new year, but until it is possible to safely do it again, we will bring to you some of the traditions and customs around the world.

Today, most countries refer to the Gregorian calendar, based on the solar year that follows the seasons' course and has 12 months composed from 28 to 31 days. However, some indigenous communities celebrate the new year on the winter solstice day, leaving behind winter's harshness and the hibernal cold that stopped the agriculture.

The symbolism is pretty straightforward, celebrating the renewal of life and honouring mother earth. Even if some communities live in a country that today follows the Gregorian Calendar, indigenous populations prefer to honour the year's end with their traditional customs and keep millennial traditions alive. Let's discover some!

Willkakuti, the Andean and Amazonian New Year:

Aymara people celebrating the New Year.

Aymara people celebrating the New Year. https://beyondbeanie.com/blogs/news/june-21st-aymara-new-year

Alex Brandino

Willka Kuti, means "return of the sun" in Aymara and it is the most common New Year celebration in the Andean-Amazonian communities, observed in more than 200 different locations throughout South America.

It takes place during the winter solstice and has been a tradition for thousands of years. Finally, in 2010, the Bolivian president Evo Morales, of Aymara descent, declared its national holiday. It is the most spiritual day for the Aymara people, which on June 21st in thousands meet in Bolivia's high plateau region to celebrate the new year's arrival.

Many rituals are performed, and offerings are made to the Pachamama, mother earth, and dances last all night long. Before sunrise, offers are given to the deities and ancestors in the semi-subterranean temple of Tiwanaku. All participants go to the sun's mystical gate and with their arms raised to receive the cosmic energy of the first rays of light in the new year. Everything is accompanied by traditional music, drums and Quenas, the Andean flutes, add the rhythm to this breathtaking ritual.

The New Year Yhyach in Siberian villages

Yakut New Year celebrations – Yhyach

Yakut New Year celebrations – Yhyach


Yhyach (meaning "abundance") is the most important festival celebrated, and it takes place between June 10th and June 25th depending on local preferences. The village's shaman is dressed in white and opens the ceremony accompanied by seven virgin girls and nine virgin boys, especially since the solar deity is a fertility cult. Prays are sung to honour the spirits and nature. National competitions and games are held during this time, and traditional food is prepared. The festival takes place in a large space, where the great Tree of the World can be found. This is the symbol of the universe's connection: the tree is in the "middle world", its roots are in the "lower world" and its branches in the "upper world".

Yakut communities celebrate the New Year twice a year, their traditional one and the gregorian calendar one. Since winter temperatures sometimes reach −60 °C, the festival is celebrated in the middle of June.

Ugadi - Indian Telugu and Kannada New Year

Ugadi Festival

Ugadi Festival


Ugadi is celebrated during the first new moon after the Spring Equinox by people living in the southern Indian states of Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. This festivity takes place between the end of March and the beginning of April.

Preparations for the celebration start a week before and include scrubbing down the house and purchasing new clothing. On the day of Ugadi, people adorn their homes with mango leaves called Torana and colourful patterns made of rice, flower petals or sand called Rangoli, buying and giving gifts such as new clothes, giving charity to the poor, special bath followed by oil treatment, preparing and sharing an exceptional food called pachadi, and visiting Hindu temples.

Aluth Avurudda - Sri lankan New Years

Sri Lankan celebrating Aluth Avurudda

Sri Lankan celebrating Aluth Avurudda

Sri Lanka Foundation

The Sinhalese and Tamil Hindus of Sri Lanka observe New Year's in mid-April: they open their doors to family, friends, and various community members. The new year is celebrated through various customs and rituals: for example, boiling milk in a new earthen pot until it boils over, symbolizes prosperity. Rituals connected with Aluth Avurudda commence with bathing on the last day of the old year (Parana Avurudda). In the village temple, this period is characterized by the bell's pealing accompanied by the beating of drums (Hewisi) to make people aware of festivity and rituals. The community used to prepare and serve rice and coconut oil sweets, such as traditional kavum, and dishes with plantains.

Mayan New Year

Celebration of the Mayan Year Cholq´ij

Celebration of the Mayan Year Cholq´ij

Gobierno de Guatemala

Mayan indigenous people remain faithful to their ancient traditions and celebrate Mayan New Year as their ancestors: participants must wear new hats, and carry Mayan bags.

However, in the Mayan culture, there is no specific date to celebrate the New Year: its calendar does have 365 days, it lacks leap years including 18 months of 20 days each, and five additional days called "aciagos" (meaning "fateful"). The festivities feature rituals, dancing and singing accompanied by plenty of blue colours, considered a sacred hue in Mayan culture. The ceremonies usually take place both at sunrise and sunset. One way to keep track of time coexist within the Maya calendar is the solar cycle ("haab"): the beginning of each New Year according to the Mayans is celebrated approximately every July, and each one represents a different phase or personality.

Nowruz the Persian New Year

Azeri women celebrating Novruz

Azeri women celebrating Novruz


Nowruz is the Persian meaning of "new day" and is the Iranian New Year, usually taking place on March 21st. It is the day of the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring.

Celebrated for over 3000 years, Nowruz can be found in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, the Balkans, and South Asia, and it has nothing to do with faith. Trumpets are played to strike the new year while people decor their table with coloured eggs and cups of grains to honour the harvest and flowers and delicious traditional food.

Nomadic Tribe Team

Cover photo, "Dancers in Uzbekistan celebrate Nowruz". Ajam Media Collective.