Number one for English language teachers

Webquest: New Year

This New Year webquest by Gabrielle Jones includes activities designed to inform students about the history of New Year celebrations and the traditions which are practised today in a variety of cultures.

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New Year is an exciting time and many cultures celebrate it in a special way. This may include special foods and drinks, parties, religious festivals and other traditions. Answer these questions in pairs or small groups:

  1. How is New Year celebrated in your country?
  2. How do you and your family celebrate New Year?
  3. Do you know of any other countries that celebrate New Year the same way? Do you know of any other countries that celebrate it differently?

Activity 1: The history of New Year celebrations

Visit www.history.com/topics/holidays/new-years and read the sections entitled ‘Early New Year’s celebrations’ and ‘January 1 becomes New Year’s Day’. Look for the answers to these questions:

  1. When were the earliest New Year celebrations and where did they take place?
  2. What name was given to the religious festival and where did the name come from?
  3. How long did the original celebration last?
  4. When people began to develop their own calendars, to what events did they tie the beginning of a new year?
  5. What event marked the beginning of the New Year in Egypt?
  6. When was the city of Rome established?
  7. Who added the first two months of the year to the calendar and what were the names of the first two months?
  8. Who instituted 1st January as the start of the New Year?
  9. What changes did Christian leaders make in the Middle Ages?
  10. When was 1st January reintroduced as the beginning of the calendar year?

When you’ve finished, discuss what you found out with your partner.

Activity 2: New Year’s traditions

On the page, www.history.com/topics/holidays/new-yearsread the final section entitled ‘New Year’s traditions’. Answer the following questions, then compare your answers with your partner.

  1. What do Spanish people eat 12 of just before midnight on New Year’s Eve and what do they symbolize?
  2. Which countries eat legumes and what do they represent?
  3. What do pigs represent in some cultures and where is pork eaten?
  4. Which countries eat ring-shaped cakes and pastries, and why?
  5. What is hidden inside the rice pudding eaten in Sweden and Norway on New Year's Eve? What will happen to the person who finds it?
  6. Which people first made New Year’s resolutions?
  7. What did they promise to do?
  8. What’s the most famous symbol of the beginning of the New Year in the USA?
  9. How long has the event taken place?
  10. What alternative objects are dropped in other American cities?

Activity 3: New Year celebrations around the world

New Year is celebrated on different dates in different places and often involves very different traditions. In this activity, you and a partner will find out all about two countries and their New Year celebrations.

Student A – Scottish New Year

Before you look at the weblink, decide whether the following statements are true (T) or false (F):

  1. ‘Hogmanay’ means the first day of the year.
  2. Scottish people used to celebrate Hogmanay more than Christmas.
  3. Strangers are not allowed inside people’s houses during Hogmanay.
  4. It is considered unlucky to enter a household without any gifts.
  5. A lump of coal is a traditional gift.

Now, visit www.scotland.org/features/hogmanay-top-facts/ to check your answers.

Student B – Jewish New Year

Before you look at the weblink, decide whether the following statements are true (T) or false (F):

  1. Jewish New Year is a celebration of the creation of the world.
  2. The celebration lasts a whole week.
  3. Jews believe that God will decide what the next year will be like for someone.
  4. A special song called the Shofaris sung in the synagogue.
  5. A round loaf is eaten to symbolize the circle of life.

Now visit www.bbc.co.uk/schools/religion/judaism/rosh_hashanah.shtml to check your answers.

Compare your answers with your partner. Then, together, write down what you discovered using the information on the websites:

Scottish New Year

  • Name of celebration
  • Customs
  • Food and drink

Jewish New Year

  • Name of celebration
  • Customs
  • Food and drink

Activity 4: Quiz: International New Year’s Eve customs

Use the following website to access a quiz on New Year’s Eve customs around the world. In pairs, discuss each question and decide which option you think is correct. 

www.topics-mag.com/internatl/holidays/new-year/quiz/new-years.htm

Post-quiz discussion

How many of the customs are also practised in your own country?

Activity 5: Round-up task

Imagine that you have friends from another country coming to celebrate New Year with you and your family. In pairs, plan the evening, considering the following points:

  • What kind of food are you going to serve?
  • Which local traditions are you going to show them?  
  • Will you visit any special people or places? 
  • What are you going to do at midnight?
  • Will you make any resolutions?

When you have finished, compare the plans you have made with another pair.

Optional activity

Make your own list of New Year’s resolutions. Compare your list with your classmates' to see if any of your resolutions are similar.

We wish you a Happy New Year!

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Readers' comments (8)

  • Tom
    I very thanks this webquest I know my new year history

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  • Yes very good point! However, you can print the webquest page for this purpose. There's a print button at the bottom of the page.

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  • A PDF would be useful as the students would have the questions in front of them while following on the website to find the answers without worksheets they have to click from onestop (website) to task website which causes endless interruptions...............?!

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  • Hi John and Anonymous,

    Thanks very much for your responses. It's useful for us to find out how teachers are using these.

    Yes that's a good question! We felt that this type of resource could be completed without having to download and print anything. The student could be sent the web address of the page (you don't have to log in to access the webquests on onestopenglish) and complete the webquest online. They could either send their answers in an email or if you are in class, jot them down on a notepad.

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  • As Anonymous says, the pdf version prints so much better. Plus, one can download and save it very easily.

    Could I turn your question around: was there a particular reason you stopped adding pdf versions of web quests?

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  • Hi, there! I think PDFs are easier to download/ print, look neater and it's also handy having the answers.

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  • Hi John,

    You're very welcome! We're not adding pdf versions of the webquests and teacher's notes anymore. Was there a particular reason you liked the pdf versions?

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  • Thanks very much for the web quest - could both the web quest and the teacher's notes be put into pdf format too? Thanks!

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