16 New Year Traditions From Around the World (6 minute read)

(Last Updated On: November 1, 2022)

Everyone has their own way of ringing in the New Year. For some, it’s an opportunity to get dressed up at a fancy event. Meanwhile, others prefer to hit the bars, whilst some are content to sit on the sofa with a box of chocolates watching the fireworks on TV. And for different cultures and religions around the world, the arrival of another year brings important traditions and customs. Some countries also have all sorts of wacky traditions to see in the New Year. From throwing plates to eating grapes, here are 16 New Year traditions around the world.

New Year fireworks in Iceland
New Year fireworks in Reykjavik, Iceland

New Year Traditions Around the World:

1. If you stepped out of your front door on New Year’s Day and found bits of smashed up crockery on your front step, you’d be annoyed, right? Well in Denmark it is considered good luck. So friends and family smash plates on each other’s front doorsteps on New Year’s Eve, to bring their loved ones good luck in the year ahead.

2. Burning effigies can often be used to symbolize anger. In Ecuador, however, it is traditional at New Year to burn a scarecrow or effigy of a well-known figure. This is because it is supposed to destroy the remaining energy of any bad things which took place in the previous year and to scare away negative energy. Families make their own effigies and burn them outside their homes.

3. In Turkey, it is considered good luck to wear red underwear to see in the New Year. The colour is thought to bring good luck over the coming year.

4. If you’re walking the streets of Puerto Rico on New Year’s Eve then you may want to bring an umbrella along with you. This is because people in the US Caribbean territory believe that the best way to drive away evil spirits is to dump a bucket of water out of the window.

5. New Year is celebrated by many in Greece with an onion hung on the front door. The onion represents the rebirth of the year, as one rolls into the next. Some parents wake their children on New Year’s Day by tapping them on the head with the onion!

Manifesting a year of uninterrupted travel

6. People in Finland like to predict the future at New Year. A traditional custom is to take a tin horseshoe and melt it down. This boiling liquid is then poured into cold water, resulting in a re-shaped piece of tin. Different shapes mean different things. For example, if the tin is heart-shaped then it means a wedding is on the horizon, or if it’s shaped like a boat then it means there will be much travelling in the coming year. We like the sound of that!

7. We’re used to the twelve strikes of a clock at midnight. But spare a thought for those living in Japan, where bells are rung 108 times on New Year’s Eve in an ancient Buddhist tradition. These ceremonies normally take place at Buddhist temples, and each of the 108 rings represents one of the defilements of the mind.

8. Also in Japan, it is common for people to eat a bowl of soba noodles at midnight on New Year’s Eve. These noodles are easy to bite, which supposedly represents a break from the old year. This tradition is thought to date back to the Kamakura period, when noodles were given out to the poor at New Year.

Paint the town red

9. As you probably know, China follows a different calendar to many countries, and New Year is celebrated at a different time of year, usually between mid-January and mid-February. Red is a lucky colour in the country (for reference see the Chinese flag!) and Chinese people often paint their doors red or place red cutouts in their windows for good luck.

A red building front at Chinese New Year
The colour red is said to bring luck to Chinese people at New Year

10. In the Philippines, round shapes signify wealth and prosperity. For this reason, on New Year’s Eve Filipinos wear clothes with round shapes on them, such as polka dot. They also fill their pockets with coins and eat spherical fruits such as oranges.

I’d probably run away from a dancing bear too

11. One of the wackier entries on this list comes from the eastern European nation of Romania. It’s traditional to dress up as dancing bears in the country, as this drives away evil spirits according to legend.

12. The small town of Talca in central Chile is home to one of the more bizarre New Year traditions around the world. The community all come together and spend the night sleeping in the local cemetery. They make fires, share food and drink, and decorate the graves of their loved ones. The reason for this is that the locals believe the souls of the dead come to the cemetery on New Year’s Eve. So, it’s a chance to catch up with dearly departed family and friends. Spooky!

13. For many, New Year’s Eve is a night of debauchery, most likely meaning the New Year starts with a late-night takeaway pizza or chicken nuggets. But in Brazil, they like to start the year in a healthier manner. It’s traditional to eat lentils at New Year, as they represent money and good fortune for the next 12 months.

14. Similarly in Spain, they like to kick off the New Year with one of their five a day. It is traditional to eat one grape for every clock bell as the clock strikes midnight. As you can imagine, it is quite hard to chew and swallow a grape in the time between bells. So, normally people end up with a face stuffed with grapes! The tradition is believed to bring good luck in the New Year.

Forget lentils and grapes, the Germans have the right idea

15. Nearby Germany does things a bit differently. The traditional food of choice in the country on New Year’s Eve is doughnuts, which are usually filled with jam or chocolate. Some families and friends will also fill one with mustard, as a prank on the unsuspecting person who eats it.

16. And finally, in Colombia, it is traditional to take a walk around the block with an empty suitcase on New Year’s Eve. This “suitcase” walk is supposed to bring a year of travel and adventure ahead.

Whatever you’re doing to celebrate New Year, we hope you have a fabulous time. And why not browse our range of Christmas and New Year tours so that you can join in with the traditions of a different country next year?

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