16 New Year's Traditions From Cultures Around The World
Happy (almost!) New Year!
Around the world, cultures welcome the change of the calendar with unique New Year’s traditions of their own. Here are some of our favorite New Year’s traditions around the world.
In Spain, it is customary to eat 12 grapes – one at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Each grape represents good luck for one month of the coming year. In bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, people gather in main squares to eat their grapes together and pass around bottles of cava.
In hopes of a travel-filled new year, residents of Colombia carry empty suitcases around the block. That’s one New Year’s tradition we can get behind!
Residents of Denmark greet the New Year by throwing old plates and glasses against the doors of family and friends to banish bad spirits. They also stand on chairs and jump off of them together at midnight to “leap” into January in hopes of good luck.
In Finland, people predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening. A heart or ring means a wedding, while a ship predicts travel and a pig declares there will be plenty of food.
To drive off evil spirits for a fresh New Year’s start, it is tradition to burn effigies (muñecos) of well-known people such as television characters and political figures in Panama. The effigies are meant to represent the old year.
During Scotland's New Year’s Eve celebration of Hogmanay, “first-footing” is practiced across the country. The first person who crosses a threshold of a home in the New Year should carry a gift for luck. Scots also hold bonfire ceremonies where people parade while swinging giant fireballs on poles, supposedly symbols of the sun, to purify the coming year.
Being a country in the Eastern Orthodox world, Serbia does some things a little differently to states in the west. The Serbian Orthodox Church actually organises itself around the Julian Calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian version. Most of the population celebrates the Gregorian new year though, so the streets will still be full on December 31 as well. The new trend of marking the New Year’s Eve has been the gathering around squares or so-called street celebrations. People started meeting one another on the decorated city squares and with music, fireworks, drinks and firecrackers said goodbye to the old and welcomed the New Year. Besides those on the squares, New Year’s parties were thrown in the clubs, restaurants, hotels and bars, which gather a large number of people. It was celebrated until the morning light with various musical genres, and the tradition was to end the evening with so-called turbo folk.
You’ll find round shapes all over the Philippines on New Year’s Eve as representatives of coins to symbolize prosperity in the coming year. Many families display piles of fruit on their dining tables and some eat exactly 12 round fruits (grapes being the most common) at midnight. Many also wear polka dots for luck.
In Brazil, as well as other Central and South America countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, it is thought to be lucky to wear special underwear on New Year’s Eve. The most popular colors are red, thought to bring love in the New Year, and yellow, thought to bring money.
An onion is traditionally hung on the front door of homes on New Year’s Even in Greece as a symbol of rebirth in the New Year. On New Year’s Day, parents wake their children by tapping them on the head with the onion.
In Japan they ring all of their bells 108 times in alignment with the Buddhist belief that this brings cleanness. It’s also considered good to be smiling going into the New Year as it supposedly brings good luck. Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Japanese eat soba noodles. The Toshikoshi Soba, which means “year crossing buckwheat noodle” has lots of symbolism. The long noodle denotes the crossing from one year to the next and the easy-to-nibble noodles signify a letting go of the past year’s regrets, a cutting-off if you will, before the fresh start the new year brings.
The French ring in the New Year with a huge feast, commonly know as le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre. The meal is full of traditional, decadent eats, including foie gras, oysters, lobster and escargot. And, just like in the U.S., champagne is the drink of choice.
Every year at the end of December people in small Peruvian village fist fight to settle their differences. They then start the year off on a clean slate.
In Romania they throw their spare coins into the river to get good luck.
In some parts of Puerto Rico they throw pails of water out of their windows to drive away evil spirits.
In Ecuador they celebrate the New Year by burning paper filled scarecrows at midnight. They also burn photographs from the last year. All in the name of good fortune.
Did any of these New Year's traditions surprise you? Do they make you want to visit that country, and experience these unique celebrations first hand? Comment below!