New Year Traditions Around The World

Jan 1, 2021 | CELEBRATIONS

Cultures across the globe ring in the new year with unique customs and traditions. There’s actually more to fireworks and lavish dinners when it comes to celebrating December 31.

As we learn more about the various New Year celebrations, we may discover cultural twists that seem foreign to us. But these distinctive variations are part of what makes exploring the world so great.

Let’s travel from home and find out how international countries usher in the new year.

1. Brazil: Jumping over seven waves

You might find the beaches crowded on New Year’s Eve in Brazil despite the pandemic raging. This is because it is considered good luck if you can jump over seven waves while making wishes, one for each wave.

The number seven is extremely sacred and linked to the water goddess Lemanjá who will give you the strength to overcome difficulties in the upcoming year. In a similar fashion, seven pomegranate seeds are eaten to keep the purse full, and seven grapes ensure abundance in all areas of life.

Brazil: Jumping over seven waves
Photo credit: Mapsofworld

2. Colombia: Packing light

One of Colombians’ favorite ways to celebrate the New Year is to carry empty suitcases around the block in hopes of a year rife with travel, which will hopefully be possible in 2021. If not, there’s nothing wrong with getting some brisk January air. 

Colombia: Packing light
Photo credit: Invaluable

3. Czech Republic: Cutting an apple

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but did you know that in the Czech Republic, an apple can also reveal insights into your future?

The night before the new year starts, Czechs cut an apple in half, then scrutinise the shape of the apple’s core to see what the future holds for them. If the apple’s core resembles a star, that means health and happiness awaits. However, if the core reveals a cross, then someone at the New Year’s Eve party should expect to fall ill.

Photo credit: Pixabay

4. Denmark: Smashing plates

Danish residents greet the New Year by affectionately throwing dinnerware against the doors of their neighbors and friends as a way to ward off bad spirits. The more dishes that are broken and piled up at your door the next day, the more friends and good fortune you will have.

Photo credit: Dreamstime

5. Estonia: Eating many meals

If breakfast, lunch, and dinner can hardly satisfy you, then make sure you celebrate New Year’s Eve in Estonia. Traditionally, people eat seven, nine, or twelve meals a day with the goal of having abundance in the next year. These numbers are considered the luckiest, so it’s completely fine to cheat on your diet and start the new year with an extra pound or two.

And if you can’t finish your food, worry not: People often purposefully leave some food on their plates in order to feed their ancestral spirits.

Photo credit: Getty Image

6. Greece: Hanging onions

In Greece, onions symbolize rebirth, so people hang them on their front doors on December 31 to encourage a year of growth. On New Year’s Day, parents wake their children by tapping them on the head with the onion.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

7. Ireland: Banging bread

The Irish have a tradition of banging bread against the walls of their houses as the clock strikes midnight. The idea is that evil spirits are chased away and good luck is invited in. It also ensures that the coming year will be filled with an abundance of bread and other food.

Photo credit: Tasty

8. Italy: Wearing red underwear

If you find yourself in Italy on New Year’s Eve, you’re going to need one thing – red underwear. In Italian culture, the color red is associated with fertility, so people wear it under their clothes hoping that it will help them conceive in the coming year.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

9. Japan: Ringing bells 108 times

One hundred and eight. That’s exactly how many times Buddhist temples in Japan ring their bells on New Year’s Eve. This tradition is meant to both dispel the 108 evil desires in each and every person and cleanse the previous year of past sins.

Photo credit: Getty Image

10. Peru: Putting three potatoes under a chair

Peruvians have their own new-year’s ritual that involves placing three potatoes under a chair: one peeled, one partially peeled, and one with all its skin. At midnight, a person chooses a potato with their eyes closed. While the unpeeled potato declares prosperity, the one that is half peeled suggests you have a normal year, and the one without skin signifies financial difficulties.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

11. Puerto Rico: Throwing water out of the window

Puerto Ricans welcome the New Year by dumping buckets of water out of their windows to drive away evil spirits. If that seems a little too unfair to the people who might be passing by, they also sprinkle sugar outside their houses to allow some good luck to enter, which is a little sweeter.

Photo credit: Sourcesofinsight

12. Philippines: Round is all the rage

Filipino culture celebrates the New Year by serving 12 round fruits. The round shape symbolizes coins, which represent abundance and wealth for the next 12 months. Apples, melons, oranges and grapes are popular picks, but any round fruit will do.

People also carry coins in their pockets and wear clothing with lots of polka dots.

Photo credit: Ang Sarap

13. Romania: Dressing up as dancing bears

In Romania, there is a tradition for people to dress up in bear-like costumes to chase away bad spirits. This is because bears are believed to be able to protect and heal people.

Photo credit: Pinterest

14. Scotland: First footing

In Scotland, during New Year’s Eve celebration of Hogmanay, first-footing is practiced across the country. For good fortune in the newly arrived year, Scots believe it is the luckiest if the first guest to enter through the door is a young, dark-headed male bearing gifts such as bread (to be full), salt (to be wealthy) and coal (to stay warm).

Photo credit: Glasgow Live

15. South Africa: Getting rid of old furniture

In South Africa, it is customary to start the year without any unwanted items. This is done by throwing old furniture out the window and into the street to make the new year bright.

Photo credit: Pinterest

16. Spain: Eating 12 grapes

As the new year approaches, Spaniards will be busy stocking their fridges full of juicy, sweet grapes. Why? In Spain, with 12 seconds remaining before the clock hits midnight, everyone is handed 12 grapes that they must complete eating in 12 seconds – each represents good luck for one month of the coming year. If you can gobble them down in time, 12 months of fortune will come your way.

Photo credit: Pinterest

17. Switzerland: Dropping ice cream

In celebration of the New Year, the Swiss channel good luck, wealth, and abundance by dropping a dollop of ice cream on the floor at midnight. They also line the streets in colorful costumes and perform symbolic ceremonies intended to chase away negative spirits.

Photo credit: Pinterest

18. Turkey: Sprinkling salt

In Turkey, it is considered good luck to sprinkle salt on your doorstep as soon as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day. Like many other New Year’s Eve traditions around the globe, this one is said to promote both peace and prosperity throughout the new year.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Whether you prefer popping 12 grapes into your mouth or breaking some of your mother’s old plates, I hope that these age-old traditions will bring in prosperity, health and happiness for you in 2021.

Happy New Year!


7 international New Year’s Eve traditions to try at home this year

7 strangest New Year traditions around the world

8 quirky New Year’s Eve traditions around the world

9 New Year’s traditions from cultures around the world

9 New Year’s traditions from around the world

12 fascinating New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world  

13 New Year’s traditions from cultures around the world

15 New Year’s good luck traditions from around the world to borrow for your celebration

20 unique New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world

40 ways to celebrate New Year traditions around the world   

50 New Year traditions from around the world

Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, is this weekend. Here are 21 photos that show what New Year’s and lunar celebrations look like across the globe

How do people celebrate New Year around the world?

How do they celebrate New Year in other countries?

New Year’s Eve traditions around the world

New Year celebrations around the world


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like

Tet Holiday 101

Tet Holiday 101

As Tết nears in Vietnam, I believe there could be no better time to learn the possible unknowns about the most...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest