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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/tips/new-year-traditions-international-custom/
7 strangest New Year traditions around the world https://www.realbuzz.com/articles-interests/festive-health-fitness/article/7-strangest-new-year-traditions-around-the-world/
8 quirky New Year’s Eve traditions around the world https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/leisure/2020/12/30/8-quirky-new-years-eve-traditions-around-the-world/
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9 New Year’s traditions from around the world https://www.ef.com/wwen/blog/language/new-years-traditions-around-world/
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13 New Year’s traditions from cultures around the world https://www.invaluable.com/blog/new-years-traditions/
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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 https://www.insider.com/what-new-years-celebrations-look-like-around-the-world-2019-12
How do people celebrate New Year around the world? https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/38341760
How do they celebrate New Year in other countries? https://www.cbc.ca/kidscbc2/the-feed/8-new-year-traditions-from-around-the-world
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New Year celebrations around the world https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/new-year-celebrations-around-world/