World religions mark the start of the year in different ways – and on different days, says Sebastian Lennox


The length in metres of a pair of flying dragons that will open Singapore's largest Chinese new year celebration, the Chingay Parade. Although the Year of the Rabbit dawns on 3 February, celebrations culminate on 11-12 February with a huge carnival that has transcended its Chinese roots to become a celebration of diversity, with Malay, Indian and Sri Lankan cultures all contributing.


The day in the Diwali season that marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and is associated with the start of the Hindu calendar, the Vikram Samvat. Diwali, the "festival of lights", is celebrated with fireworks, flowers, lamp-lit parties and the exchange of gifts. This year's Diwali starts on 26 October and can also be seen in Leicester, which claims to stage the biggest celebrations outside India.


The number of blasts on a ram's horn trumpet played at synagogues to mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. From sunset on 28 September until sunset on 30 September, most businesses close and lengthy religious services are held. Most families celebrate with a festive meal with apples dipped in honey to symbolise a sweet new year. Non-Jews are often welcomed in synagogues, and special events are held across Jerusalem. The city's newest design hotel, the Mamilla, pictured, offers views of the old city walls and the Tower of David.


The number of new years celebrated by Buddhists. The ancient Theravada strand is followed in Sri Lanka and across South-east Asia, while Mahayana Buddhism is found in East Asia, particularly Tibet. The Mahayana new year is celebrated this year from 19-21 January, while Theravada is 18-21 April. Red Dot Tours offers a 15-day "Buddhism and Ancient Kingdoms" tour of Sri Lanka.


The number of years behind the Gregorian calendar of the Orthodox Julian calendar used in Ethiopia. New Year's Day falls on 11 September and marks the end of the rainy season and the return of the Queen of Sheba from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem. Open-air concerts, parties and feasts typify celebrations which climax on 26 September. Tailormade Explore offers trips to Ethiopia from £2,035 with flights, taking in Addis Ababa, Gonder, Lalibela and the Simien mountains.


The year in the Islamic Hijri calendar that corresponds to 2011 in the Gregorian calendar. The calendar began when the prophet Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medinah to create the first Islamic state. Islamic new year falls on 26 November. The Traveller is running a specialist group tour to Saudi Arabia, from 7-15 January, to Islamic sites including Medinah, for £2,895 with flights.