New Year Traditions From Around The World

Welcome back fellow humans,

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The preliminary celebrations of the New Year stemmed over 4,000 years when the calendar was created, during the ancient Mesopotamia period.

Have you heard about these New Year Traditions from all around the world?

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Argentina

Argentines cut up all their unused documents and papers to represent leaving the past behind. Pink underwear signifies a new year for love and romance.

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South Korea

Koreans wear traditional attire called hanboks and concentrate on connecting with family. They observe the first sunrise of the New Year. Some Koreans jot down their hopes and dreams and put them in balloons or lanterns that are dispersed into the sky. Koreans also cook duk gook rice dumplings or cakes to present to their ancestors.

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Romania

During New Year, Romanian farmers try to converse with their livestock, it represents good luck if it triumphs. People also toss coins into rivers for good luck. During the dance of the bear, dancers dress up in bearskins costumes, play instruments and dance from one house to another, this is a pagan ceremony that is proposed to protect against malevolent spirits and the demise of the previous year and to welcome the approaching year.

Greeks consume Vasilopita, or Saint Basil’s cake, a sweet yeast bread, it is baked with a silver or gold coin inside, and the family member that gets in the coin in their slice is considered lucky in the New Year. 

Squill (sea onion), a pungent plant that resides in Crete and looks like a large onion which will linger to develop new leaves and flowers even when dug up. An onion or squill is customarily placed on the entrance of every home on New Year, the onions represent growth, rebirth, and fertility. On New Year’s Day, parents awaken children by knocking them on the head with an onion to get them up for church service. 

After New Year’s Eve, it is traditional for Greeks to throw a pomegranate against the front door of their house. The pomegranate seeds represent fertility, life, good fortune and abundance, the number of pomegranate seeds that were dispersed is clearly linked with the extent of good fortune to arrive.

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Austria

In Austria and Germany, they refer to New Year’s Eve as Sylvesterabend or the Eve of Saint Sylvester. Roasted suckling pig, pork ribs, or pork chops are customarily made on New Year’s Eve and also include cookies, chocolates, red wine punch with cinnamon and spices and decorated with little pigs composed of marzipan, called marzipanschwein

The Nordic tradition includes a unique activity known as Bleigießen, or lead pouring, dissolving a small horseshoe then placing the melted metal into cold water, where it solidifies into a modified shape that foresees the fortune for the New Year. A heart or circle means a wedding, while a ship foretells adventure and a pig suggests there will be a plethora of food. Germans leave portions of the food eaten on New Year’s Eve in plates later to guarantee an abundance of food in the New Year. 

In the past, Germanic tribes ate pieces of deep-fried dough, krapfen during the Yuletide so that when the Goddess Perchta, attempts to cut stomachs open and fill it with trash, it is a punishment for those who did not sufficiently partake in Yule’s festive spirit), the fat from the dough would cause her sword to slip right off. Nowadays, New Year’s tradition includes consuming oliebollen, similar to doughnut-like dumplings made by dropping a scoop of dough added with currants or raisins into a deep fryer, usually filled with fruit jam or chocolate and dusted with powdered sugar. 

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France

French people hold a huge banquet in the New Year known as le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre. It is a  traditional meal full of indulgent foods, plus foie gras, oysters, lobster, escargot and champagne.

The Chinese New Year takes place between late January and the third week of February. Demonstrations of dancing dragons and customary lion dance represent long life and prosperity. There is a mirror on the head of the lion to scare away evil spirits using their own reflections. People all over the country ignite firecrackers to generate loud noises that frighten away malevolent spirits. Furthermore, children also obtain red envelopes that include money, metaphorically handing over good fortune from elder to youth. The country is covered with red decorations, a colour that signifies good fortune such as painting the front door red, red lanterns to protect against bad luck and jianzhi, red paper cut-outs that are placed on the walls.

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Israel

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year occurs in the fall, during the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. In the night, a festival candle blessing and the Kiddush, blessing over wine is chanted. Those celebrating eat apples and other fruits dowsed in honey, which signifies harmony and prosperity in the New Year. All over the festivity, the shofar is played. This instrument is constructed of a ram’s horn, signifies humility standing before God.

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Poland and Scandinavia

In Poland and parts of Scandinavia, pickled herring called Sledzie Marynowane is made by dowsing in salt water for 24 hours and then placing them in a jar with onions, allspice, sugar and white vinegar, it brings a year of fortune and abundance. Scandinavians include herring in a heavier midnight smorgasbord with smoked and cured fish, pate and meatballs.

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Switzerland

On New Year’s night, the Swiss direct good fortune, prosperity, and wealth by dumping a spoonful of ice cream on the floor. They also cover the streets in bright costumes and enact symbolic ceremonies meant to drive out harmful spirits.

Oshogatsu is a family-oriented celebration and involves cleansing and new starts. According to the Shinto religion, typically arranging green plants, kadomatsus (pine branches, bamboo, plum twigs) to the entrance to their home welcome good spirits and meticulous cleaning, or osoji takes place to welcome the kami. At midnight, everyone meets at home or at a temple to consume toshikoshi soba or year-crossing noodles, buckwheat plant is used to make soba noodles, the soba’s thin shape and long length are meant to signify resilience, long and healthy life. During the New Year’s Eve/Omisoka, Buddhist temples ring the bells 108 times to metaphorically eradicate the 108 human sins, known as joyanokane. At the beginning of January, another tradition is making and eating cooked sticky rice cakes, called Kagami mochi, which is constructed from two round cakes of mochi with a tangerine positioned on top. Children obtain otoshidama, which are small gifts with money inside. Another traditional Japanese practice is to send out letters to friends and family, which are specifically kept for distribution on the 1st of January.

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Netherlands

After World War II, one of the Dutch New Year’s Eve traditions includes shooting carbides. Dutch farmers load old milk cans with carbide and water, then nail the caps back on the cans and boil them up, causing it to burst. Cars and Christmas trees are also scorched to discard the old and welcome the new. As an ending to the celebration, divers jump into the freezing waters of the North Sea, lakes or canal to mark New Year’s Day.

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Spain

In the 1800s, vine farmers in the Alicante region conjured a practice as a method of selling surplus grapes from an overabundant harvest toward the end of the year. Today, Spaniards and non-Hispanics alike eat one grape for each of the first 12 bell strikes after midnight to respect a tradition and bring about a year of good fortune and prosperity for each month of the year. In cities like Madrid and Barcelona, people gather in malls to fill their mouths with grapes and rinse it down with a bottle of cava.

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Philippines

Filipinos believe everything should be round on New Year’s Eve as a depiction of coins to signify wealth and fortune in the New Year. At midnight, many families display loads of fruit on their dining tables and eat precisely 12 round fruits (like the Spanish, eating exactly 12 grapes at midnight for good luck). Many also wear polka dots and fill their pockets with round coins to cash for luck. The celebration includes a plethora of noise with horns, music, shouting, whistling, clanging pots and pans, and igniting firecrackers to discourage bad luck and malevolent spirits. Filipino people also consume traditional pancit noodles and treats like Malagkit and Biko. Before midnight, all the windows and entrances, including cupboards, closets, and drawers, are left ajar to permit good fortune to enter.

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Ireland

Before the New Year, Irish people spot clean their entire house, garden and cars. When it gets nearer to midnight, they toss bread at the walls to drive out malevolent spirits and good fortune encouraged in. Followed by, a special dinner where they recall about family and close friends who passed away. To honour their cherished ones, they open the door and put a spot at the table. The Irish tradition entails single ladies leaving mistletoe, the wild berry linked with fertility and a kissing magnet over Christmas underneath the pillow on New Year’s Eve, then torching it in the fire the next day in the chance of attracting love in the following 12 months.

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Estonia

Customarily, people eat seven, nine, or twelve meals a day to have plenty in the next 365 days. These figures are deemed blessed, so it is entirely urged to deceive the healthy diet and start the New Year with an additional pound or two. Also, placing some food on the plate for family spirits is supported.

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Scotland

In Scotland, there is an abundance of fire festivals derived from pagan influences. On 30th December, Edinburgh’s torchlight parade fills up the streets with light, traditional bagpipes and drums playing. They handle huge fireballs made of wire filled with paper and material fragments that are put on fire and thrown into the sea, apparently symbolises the sun to cleanse the New Year and fend off malevolent spirits.

Another old Scottish superstition called Hogmanay/First Footing, good fortune initiates when a tall, dark-haired man set foot in the house on New Year’s Day to symbolize wealth and success particularly if they bring whisky, coal, shortbread and a black bun (fruitcake), which guarantees there will be no lacking food or warmth for the New Year. On New Year’s Day, Scottish children wake up early and offered coins, mince pies, apples and sweets for singing to their neighbours.

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Thailand

A Thai ceremony called Songkran is celebrated on the New Year’s Day occurring from 13th to 15th April, the hottest time of the year. It includes lighting candles, incense at shrines, cleaning Buddha statues, the hands of elders to confirm they enter the New Year religiously cleansed. Thai people throw water on others, typically water is contained in buckets, trash cans, water guns and even garden hoses and it signifies purification. They cover themselves with grey talc, it represents the sins of the prior year with the water sweeping away all sins.

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Czech

Czechs favour foreseeing their future fortunes on New Year’s Eve with the aid of an apple. The fruit is sliced in half, and the structure of the apple’s core determines fate. If it looks like a star, then they will meet again in contentment and wellbeing but if it appears like a cross, then they will fall sick at the New Year’s Eve party.

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Armenia

Armenians bake bread, tarehats on New Year’s Eve, they add an ingredient into their dough, it is a custom for metaphorical best wishes to be moulded into every bread baked on the day. Pomegranates are thrown on the ground for good fortune. The more pieces and seeds spread on the ground, the happier the New Year will be. The colour and shape of the pomegranate resembles the human heart and signifies life, fertility, and health.

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Turkey

Turkish people consider lucky to scatter salt on the doorstep immediately the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day. Cutting a pomegranate on New Year’s Eve in Turkey signifies prosperity and wealth in the New Year.

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Denmark

On the New Year, Danes throw unused plates and glasses that were saved up all year, against the doors of family and friends to expel evil spirits in an oddly destructive show of affection and the bigger the pile of broken dishes, the more luck the person will have in the New Year. At midnight, other customs include jumping off chairs to leap into the New Year. After a traditional New Year’s Eve meal of steamed cod with mustard, and consuming Kransekage (formerly known as overflødighedshorn, the tower of doughnut was tilted on its side, with chocolate and delights falling out) a wreath or doughnut-shaped cake designed using marzipan concentric rings piled on top of each other with a bottle of wine or Aquavit in the centre. The cake is adorned with ornaments, crackers and flags.

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Italy

Italians celebrate New Year’s Eve with La Festa di San Silvestro, often beginning with a traditional cotechino con lenticchie, They add pork to coin-shaped lentil dishes in the form of spicy sausage, or a deboned pig trotter, to represent the plenitude of the land, money and good fortune. Red symbolises love and fertility, so young men and women will typically dress in red undergarments on New Year’s Eve. The meal ends with chiacchiere, balls of fried dough that are covered in honey and powdered sugar and prosecco.

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The United States

In the early 20th century, fireworks were banned in New York City, so they planned to have a 700-pound ball dropped down a pole. It has become a custom to observe the ball drop at the countdown to New Year. At midnight, kissing someone special establishes a tone for the New Year, in many Western cultures dating back to Medieval times it represented the first person you saw on midnight on the New Year would decide the ambience for the coming year. 

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Canada

During New Year’s Eve, Canadians in rural regions participate in ice fishing in the open or in purpose-built fishing shacks with friends on the frozen ponds and rivers to catch a fish or two to celebrate the coming year. A polar bear dive tradition entails swimming in freezing waters to fundraise money for charities. Also, waiting at Niagara Falls to see the countdown.

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Russia

Since Christmas celebrations were dismissed during the Soviet era, Russians moved holiday traditions to New Year’s Day. Traditionally, they write their wishes down on a piece of paper, burn them with a candle, and drink the subsequent ashes in a glass of champagne. In Siberia, brave divers plant the New Year’s Tree like a polar plunge, underneath frozen lakes and rivers sort as a symbol for starting over. The Siberian New Year Tree (or yolka) is supposed to signify starting over and the coming of Father Frost. Children rise on New Year’s Day to gifts from Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz), the Russian Santa Claus. The traditionally decorated New Year’s tree stays up until the Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 7. 

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Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, they throw water out the window to chase off malevolent spirits and eat 12 grapes at midnight. They also clean their car, house, garden and the streets, representing a new start in the coming year. families also sprinkle sugar outside of their house to invite a propitious future. Traditional food is served including Arroz con gandules, pasteles, roasted pig, coquito, rice pudding and a popular dish known as “Hoppin’ John,” is made of pork-flavoured field peas or black-eyed peas and rice, frequently served with collards or other cooked greens (the colour of money) and cornbread (the colour of gold) believed to symbolize coins and financial prosperity in the coming year.

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Chile

In South American countries, there is a custom of wearing red underwear to find love and yellow underwear for wealth and luck on New Year’s Eve. In the New Year’s Eve, Chileans honour the deeply deceased family or friends, so their masses are held in cemeteries. Ahead of time, they all gather round for a plentiful dinner that comprises stuffed turkey or other meat. For the night, they bring in small snacks and drinks and light fires beside the graves.

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Mexico

In Mexico, Tamales, corn dough stuffed with meat, cheese and other ingredients wrapped in a banana leaf or a corn husk, often provided with menudo, a tripe and hominy soup that is ideal for hangovers. The Año Neuvo is marked by throwing water out the window and leaving the front door open to metaphorically clean out the old year. Families throw coins on the ground and sweep them back into the house to foster a successful future. In the meantime, they attend parades, and festivals and the customary Latin American tradition of burning scarecrows.

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Ecuador and Colombia

During the yellow fever epidemic in Guayaquil, people in Ecuador forced burn coffins packed with the dearly departed clothing for purification. Today, at the annual Años Viejos, the people cleanse the world by burning scarecrows filled with paper or sawdust and moulded after a famous figure who somehow harmed the world in the former year, such as a corrupt politician or a celebrity who fell from grace.

In Ecuador and Colombia, they carry a suitcase and money at midnight for good fortune in their adventures, financial security and stability during the New Year. Supposedly, lentils bring good luck and prosperity, so they incorporate them into rice dishes or keep it in their pockets. On the night of New Year’s Eve, Colombians leave three potatoes, one peeled, one unpeeled, and one half-peeled under their bed. At midnight, they draw out the first potato they hold. Peeled means they will have monetary issues, unpeeled implies wealth, and half peeled means anywhere in between.

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Peru

Takanakuy means ‘when the blood is boiling.’ At the end of December, Peruvians hold a festival where people wrestle each other in a friendly manner to symbolize a fresh start for the year and supervised by local policemen.

Like in Ecuador and Colombia, Peruvians carry a suitcase, wear yellow underwear and also take part in the custom of leaving the three potatoes under a chair at midnight to bring good luck and wealth.

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Brazil

Brazilians consider the number seven as the lucky number on New Year’s Eve, so seven pomegranate seeds and seven grapes are eaten to safeguard wealth. Some Brazilians leap over seven waves in the ocean and toss flowers into the water as a gift to Lemanjá, the Goddess of the sea. If the ocean reverts the gifts, then the Goddess did not accept them. They wear white because the colour indicates good fortune, wealth, and protect against evil spirits. Additionally, they view fireworks on Rio de Janeiro’s shores while snacking on lentils, which signify wealth. Like in Ecuador, they also burn down life-sized figurines that exemplify dreadful occurrences from the previous year.

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Panama

In Panama, they also burn statues of famous individuals such as celebrities and political figures to chase off wicked spirits for the coming year. Panamanians usually leave a poster in front of each figure, on which they jot down terrible things that happened to them in the previous year.

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Hungary

Hungarians burn figurines like in Ecuador, but only one personification of the sin and calamity of the past year known as “Jack Straw”, is carried around the community before being burnt. They make loud noises to scare away malevolent spirits. Stitching or doing laundry on New Year’s Day is deemed ill-fated. If the first visitor on the New Year’s Day is a male, it is believed to be lucky and if it is a woman, then it is unlucky. Hungarians use water containing red apple to cleanse their faces and improve the chances of continuing to stay healthy in the coming year.

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Bahamas

Junkanoo is a Bahamian festival that takes place on both Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, originated in the late 18th century when the slaves were permitted to commemorate Christmas as a community, these raucous, lively parades started at 2am that last until 10am. Bahamians dancers roam the streets, while musicians strike goatskin drums and cow whistles.

In Johannesburg, South Africa, people throw furniture out the window on New Year’s Eve to symbolize throw away old obstacles and finding a fresh start. Today, this custom is replaced with firework displays and night long parties. Cape Town holds a unique parade with singing, dancing, dazzling clothing, and face paint.

Lagos arranges many parades such as the Calabar Carnival and Lagos Countdown which lasts for 20 days and begins on December 7th or 8th, where people dress in animal masks and play vigorous dances on the streets, to represent good luck, cheeriness and chase away evil spirits.

In Zimbabwe, Jameson Vic Falls Carnival is a 3-day festival with huge gatherings with fire dancers and stilt walkers.

In Senegal, festival lights are lit, people wear extravagant costumes and marched down the street with drumming and singing and embrace the music in Le Fanal Festival. There is a 10-day drumming festival called the annual Abéné Festivalo, that begins at the end of December last until January. There is also customary Senegalese fighting matches.

On 11th September, Ethiopians celebrate the New Year, it is called Enkutatash, translates to “gift of jewels,” and dates to when Queen of Sheba presented jewels upon her arrival. Nowadays, children obtain small presents and spend time with friends and family. Families share flatbread and stew as a customary meal and young children receive new clothes and gather flowers and present them to friends while singing usual New Year’s songs.

Thank you for reading, fellow humans!

 

35 thoughts on “New Year Traditions From Around The World

  1. This is an absolutely brilliant post – I loved learning about all the different traditions, calendars and cultural practices. So important to share and spread this information.

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    1. This was such an interesting post! Thanks for sharing. Brazil’s lucky number 7, love it. Used to live there.
      LaTisha | upandabroad.com

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  2. What an interesting post! I really enjoyed learning about all the different cultures and how they celebrate new years. I always find it interesting when I meet someone from another country, and they have different ways of celebrating the festive seasons.

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  3. Wow- I thought my family had some strange traditions, but some of these are just crazy! The fact that Cretian parents wake their children up on New Year’s Day by hitting them over the head with an onion is just nuts.

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  4. I love learning about other traditions and teaching my children about them as well. Thank you for sharing this information to help people look outside of their own traditions.

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  5. It’s so wonderful that each country has its own traditions and it’s wonderful when we have a chance to get to know them! Happy New Year! 🙂

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  6. Wow, so many traditions from so many countries. I am surprised that some of them are still done because they seem so steeped in tradition but so far away from modern life. I also didn’t know that Hoppin’ John was from Puerto Rico. I always thought it came from Texas. It’s one of my favorites in the summertime.

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  7. Wow! This is such a complete article. I had no idea about all of these traditions. I find them fascinating. It’s part of our culture and history, it’s always interesting to learn about this.

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  8. I love all these histories and traditions! So fascinating! The Swiss dumping ice cream on the floor is a no-no for me and I will not be celebrating it that way lol. The Greeks waking their kids up with squill is too funny to picture lol.

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  9. Thank you for sharing this enlightening information on the various customs of several countries in celebrating the New Year. I particularly love Eustonia — 12 meals a day and the refreshing idea of actually starting the year with an extra pound or two is something I could definitely relate to. lol Thanks for sharing.

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  10. For me that I’m a traveler, reading this post is so informative. I’ve learned new traditions from places I’m going to explore, too cool. Thank you!! – Paolo

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  11. This is such a fun post! Even though some of us are very far apart, we all want the same basic thing for ourselves. We want to love, prosper, and be happy in the new year! I wonder what my neighbors would think if I threw a pomegranate at my front door next year?

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  12. Ok. this post was amazingly full of information I love it! I am Venezuelan American, so we through a great Noche Vieja dinner party usually involving pork, immediately after midnight we eat 12 grapas with bubbles, run outside with a suitcase, passports and cash (dollars and euros to secure lots of international travels during the new year), and wear yellow underwear (so ugly, btw) for good luck. On January 1st, there are lentils and an open house for g=family and friends. Lentils are for prospeity!

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