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How Louisville immigrant communities ring in the New Year

A sign that says "#2024" next to a glass of wine and holiday baubles
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Louisville's immigrant communities are bringing their home countries' traditions to ring in the New Year.

People celebrate New Year’s in so many ways beyond the customary countdown. And members of Louisville’s immigrant community bring their cultural celebration with them.

Water is a large part of Cuban New Year’s celebrations. One tradition entails putting water in a large bowl or bucket and throwing it away from your home at the top of the year.

“Throwing away everything that was bad in the last year [and] starting with everything new,” explained Sirelis Roque, a Cuban immigrant who lives in Louisville.

Another tradition makes use of the Cuban landscape as people who still live on the island head to beaches to cleanse themselves in the ocean.

“Water is something fresh, you know, it's something that refreshes your life, refreshes your thoughts,” said Roque.

She said being together to celebrate with loved ones and neighbors accompanied by food and music is a key part of the traditions.

“Every neighbor hug each other, kiss each other. Even if they are not close, everybody go out and start kissing and hugging,” Roque.

The importance of community appears in traditions across cultures.

Karissa Salama emigrated to the U.S. from Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He said when it comes to New Year’s there, no one is left out of celebrations because of financial reasons.

“If you have not the money to buy this to celebrate, we call them, we call them to come in our house to enjoy,” Salama said. “You pay for them for our [celebration]. No person [stays] in the house because he missed the day to pay for to celebrate.”

Being together, with no one left out, is central to celebrations across various Congolese communities.

Family and community are paramount in celebrations in Europe as well.

“It's a very important family celebration,” said Arina Nemcheko, who is from Ukraine. “People do not go to work on the day, and we just spend time with our families like doing different winter activities.”

Across the globe, community, prosperity and fresh starts are foundational to New Year's celebrations. And Louisville’s immigrant community is bringing its ways of highlighting those aspects here.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.