NSU Students from Zimbabwe and Albania Present New Year Traditions

Foreign students at Novosibirsk State University celebrate with New Year’s traditions that differ from Russians. For example, instead of champagne, young people drink beer from corn, instead of an Olivier salad, they prepare baklava, and to attract good luck, they do not make a wish under a chiming clock, burn a piece of paper. and throw it into a glass with a drink, but throw a pomegranate on the ground. Nonhlanhla Telma Sibanda from Zimbabwe and Soana Beiko from Albania, students at the NSU V. Zelman Institute of Medicine and Psychology, described these and other traditions. 

Sibanda explained that there are 50 tribes in her country and each of them celebrates the New Year in its own way. She belongs to the Xhosa people, who celebrate the main holiday of the year with centuries-old traditions. Before the adoption of Christianity, her fellow tribesmen believed in the spirits of their ancestors. This faith persists to this day and members of the Xhosa tribe believe that deceased ancestors look after their living descendants from the other world and take care of them. Once a year, on New Year's Eve, the Xhosa pay tribute to them,  

“We gather with relatives and friends to move into the coming year together. This creates a sense of unity. We slaughter a cow and burn grass in a room called ‘imfefo’. This is to honor those who are no longer with us, we ask their spirits to be with us.” 

Among other interesting traditions, Sibanda noted going to church on New Year's Eve. There are no special clothing requirements, everyone just wears comfortable clothes. The New Year's drink, “umkobochi”, is a beer made from corn, sorghum, malt, water, and yeast. All the celebrants drink it from the same cup. And the main New Year’s dish is smoked chicken. 

The student added that her biggest challenge today is to adapt and find friends. Sibanda hopes to celebrate New Year in Russian someday, surrounded by new acquaintances. Russian culture is as exotic to her as Zimbabwean culture is for us. 

“I would like to keep my traditions in Russia, but I can't. Mostly because it is necessary during this time to prepare for exams, which are known here as “the session”. Besides, I can't observe them alone, all that's left is for me to reminisce", she added. 

Beiko said that everyone in Albania celebrates the New Year. For Albanians, as well as for representatives of other European cultures, this is a time for "fun, joy, and song." That is why the most important thing about the holiday is the table. Regardless of the number of guests, the table should not be empty, there should always be turkey and meat on it. And the hostess of the house prepares a big baklava a week before the New Year so there is enough for all the guests. Also, a puff pastry pie called “bourekas” is baked. A coin is placed in it and whoever finds it during the meal will be lucky in the coming year. Snacks include dried fruits and nuts. Beiko added that, 

“New Year’s dinner in every Albanian family is accompanied by watching comedy shows”.

Before the New Year, the house must be shiny and clean. In the first minutes of the holiday, all the windows and doors are opened so that happiness and luck come in. Albanians also break a pomegranate in front of the entrance of the dwelling. The wider it opens, the more luck and money the person who threw it will have. It is also important that a boy enters the house first and always on the right foot.

Instead of Father Frost or Santa Claus, Babadimri  is the name of the person who gives gifts in Albania. The cost of gifts, the student notes, does not matter to Albanians, all that is important is “the thought and desire to give”. It is also customary to send postcards to your loved ones. Beiko does this but admits that in the era of electronic communication, the tradition is gradually dying out.  She concluded, 

“The New Year is very important. No matter what hardships we went through in the past year, we celebrate and are grateful for the people who have been with us. We Albanians believe it is optimistic to start the New Year on the right foot”.

Original text (in Russian)