With the Christmas holiday behind us, we quickly switch gears and start thinking about how we are going to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I read a poll that said 67% of Americans prefer to stay home on New Year’s Eve – that number seems a little high to me but I must openly admit that Geoffrey and I generally fall into that category. This year we will enjoy dinner with good friends which might just keep us awake to midnight.
I began to wonder how people in Tanzania celebrate the New Years holiday, prompting me to do a little reading on the subject. It would seem that the New Year is most often celebrated in Tanzania during the Spring season. Spring is thought to be the season of rebirth, recognized by the sowing of new seeds and the blooming of new flowers. The spring season in Tanzania falls in July – the month that we will arrive.
Since much of the world celebrates New Year on the 1st of January every year, there are parts of Tanzania that recognizes our traditional holiday as well. In Zanzibar, the coastal region, the New Year is celebrated in a grand way. I have to believe is brought largely in part on based on the tourism factor. In that part of the country, people greet each other with warmth and care and even make resolutions for the coming year just as most countries celebrate.
In more tribal regions of Eastern Africa where the New Year is celebrated in the spring, the holiday has a focus on singing, dancing, feasting and drumming as a part of their festivals. There are specific rituals that are undertaken to bring good luck in the new year. Mwaka Kogwa (celebrated around July 23 or 24) host a play fight that takes place amongst the men of each village. The villagers beat each other to vent their aggressions from the past year. (Can I tell you I am quite happy to be missing this since we will leave Tanzania in July before the end of the month when these festivals will occur!) In the past, real weapons were used but today banana stalks are used because they are less violent. I guess we could do this in our back yard since we have plenty of banana stalks!!
During the spring New Years Celebration, women of the village dress up in their best attire and proceed through the village and the fields singing traditional songs about family, love and joy. (Leave it to us women to go towards the more gentle of celebrations and the dressing up part seems to also fit a more western culture.
The mganga, or tribal healer, lights a ritual hut on fire and reads which way the smoke is burning to determine the village’s prosperity for the coming year, and all villagers participate in a grand feast where all guests are welcomed and considered a sign of happiness and prosperity.
All of my thoughts are now shifting to Tanzania – we will be there in a little over six months from now. I like the fact that we will be there during the spring season when it is considered the rebirth and the official New Year season. I somehow want to identify with the rebirth, although I have a feeling 7 days of going up the mountain and two days of coming down will not resemble the feeling of rebirth in the physical sense anyway! Pkp