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New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Updated on January 1, 2014
New Year’s Traditions Around the World
New Year’s Traditions Around the World | Source

Across the world the New Year signifies a new beginning, a new start, a clean slate, and a chance for all sorts of wonderful opportunities in the upcoming year. The way it is celebrated varies across the world though.

Although many traditions are common amongst most cultures, like fireworks, parties and celebration, many cultures do things at this time of year that truly make them unique.

Some believe in the luck that is possible in the New Year. Many think that the actions taken by individuals on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day will determine the fortune of that person for the rest of the new year.

Whereas others focus on forgetting the old year, or even driving away the evil spirits born of negative actions in the old year, so that all can begin the new year with a clean slate and a fresh start full of endless opportunities uncorrupted by the old year.

With the New Year impending, I thought it would be fun to check out New Year’s traditions all over the world.

Who says that you have to end and begin the years the exact same way every time another one comes? Why not spice it up, take a few traditions from other countries, and make your New Year’s celebration unique.

Some of these great traditions would be fun for New Year’s parties to share with friends, or wonderful and memorable to add to your families regular traditions.

Let’s look at what others in the world have to offer us for New Year’s.

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Albania

Instead of having a Christmas tree, the tree is used for New Year’s and is called the New Year’s Pine. They, like many others in the world, gather with friends and family members on New Year’s Eve for a grand dinner, music, and fun. Another big part of their New Year’s tradition is to curl up on the couch and watch the comedy shows purposely programmed for that special evening.

Austria

In Austria, large crowds gather in the streets to dance and party around a series of stages where bands and orchestras play for everyone. Festive food and drinks are plentiful as everyone celebrates together.

Belarus

In this country, New Year’s is a fantastic time for single women. For the whole week before New Year’s Day all of the single women get together to compete in skill activities to predict who will get married in the new year. This is one of the biggest parts of the year for single women in Belarus.

Belgium

In Belgium, all the children have New Year’s letters delivered to them from friends and family, all to be delivered on the 1st. On this day, they all read their letters and send out New Year’s cards of their own to all of their loved ones, featuring golden cherubs and angels, colored roses, and ribbon-tied garlands.

New Year’s Traditions Around the World
New Year’s Traditions Around the World | Source

Brazil

Color is a big deal to Brazilians, and most wear the color white for good luck at this time of year. For those seeking something other than luck, many might wear red for romance, yellow for success and green for health. Whatever you do, you would not want to wear black, as this is the symbol for bad luck. (TimeNewsFeed)

Canada

New Year’s is a cold one in Canada as they partake in a tradition not many people would be eager to join in on, jumping in to the freezing water. That’s right. It’s called a polar bear plunge as all of the “polar bears” participate in midnight freezing water swimming every year. They believe that those that jump in at midnight will receive good luck all the next year.

Colombia and Mexico

In this country, citizens believe that carrying an empty suitcase around town with them welcomes the New Year in and leads to exciting travels for the next year. While many might not be looking for travels, but just luck, this is how to earn it in Columbia. (ODDEE)

Denmark

Lol This country has traditions that will make you want to move to Denmark, or at least visit for the New Year. In this country, it is a tradition to go to the home of friends and family for dinner and then throw you dinner plates at their doors to show them how valuable they are to you. That’s right. You can break your dishes after you finish dinner and it’s a complement. At midnight they then climb on their chairs and jump off for good luck. What a fun country!

England

On New Year’s Eve, tens of thousands of people gather around the London Eye to watch fireworks set to music by British artists. The next day they then have a huge parade to commemorate New Year’s Day.

Estonia

If you like food, Estonia is the place to be for New Year’s as they believe dinner should be eaten multiple times that evening. The numbers seven, nine and twelve are lucky in this country so this is how many times they eat, seven, nine, or twelve.

For each meal that is eaten, they believe that you gain the strength of that many men in the new year. And don’t think you have to finish every meal in full, because they believe that food needs to be left on every plate for the spirits of past ancestors visiting the family that night.

France

On New Year’s Eve, and for a week afterward, a huge party is thrown and a massive feast is served complete with tons of seafood and champagne. On the last day of the celebration, a week after New Year’s Day, a flat pastry cake, called la galette des rois, is served in which a small doll is hidden. The person that finds the doll becomes the king or queen of the New Year.

Germany

The Germans have an interesting tradition that is sort of like reading tea leaves. It’s called lead pouring. This tradition consists of pouring hot metal into cold water and then “reading” the fortune of the shape that emerges from the water.

New Year’s Traditions Around the World
New Year’s Traditions Around the World | Source

Greece

Just as in France, a cake is baked for the New Year with a coin, or a doll, inside of it. Whomever finds the treasure inside of their slice of cake also inherits the good fortune that comes with it in the new year.

Iceland

On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebrations ring out all over the country as bonfires are lit, food is served, and music and shows are put on for everyone. On New Year’s Eve the citizens all gather round the radio and tune into the mass at Reykjavik’s cathedral together before midnight.

Italy

Just like in Brazil, in Italy color is a big deal for New Year’s. The Italians all believe that the color red is good luck and provides protection from the angels for the coming year. On the night of New Year’s Eve, most citizens put on red underwear in order to make sure they have good luck in the new year.

Korea

Korea has two New Year’s, the Lunar New Year and the Solar New Year! The Solar New Year is celebrated on New Year’s Day and the Lunar New Year is celebrated on the full moon and therefore varies each year. This means two celebrations every year, and both North Korea and South Korea celebrate each of these differently. (Wikipedia)

Japan

Instead of having New Year’s parties in Japan, they hold Forget the Year parties. They believe that the New Year is about letting go of the problems of the last year and starting anew in the new year. Japanese citizens clean their houses, forgive those they have misunderstandings with, and even the Buddhist temples rings their gongs 108 times in an effort to clear the people of their weaknesses and provide them strength for the new year.

Pakistan

In Pakistan, the New Year is enjoyed by visiting the beautiful beaches at night and shooting off fireworks. However citizens shooting their guns, or aerial firing, is also a popular way of celebrating the coming of the New Year. Unfortunately, this practice kills many every year.

Panama

This is pretty interesting. In Panama, the people create life size dolls of disliked politicians and other big name people, and they destroy them to symbolize forgetting about these people in the new year.

Philippines

In the Philippines, citizens wear polka dots and fill their homes with round objects because during the New Year, round objects mean prosperity. By surrounding themselves with round shapes, they are guaranteeing themselves wealth in the new year.

New Year’s Traditions Around the World
New Year’s Traditions Around the World | Source

Romania

Color seems to be important in a variety of countries when it comes to good luck. However, they wear theirs for a completely different reason. For New Year’s Romanians dress up in brightly colored costumes and animal furs, and many of them dance from house to house throughout the village in an effort to ward off evil in the new year.

Russia

Most Russian citizens gather around the television with their families on New Year’s Eve to watch the President speak. They also believe that the morning of New Year’s Day, if the first visitor that comes by is a man then they will experience good luck for the next year.

Scotland

Just like in France, the New Year’s celebration in Scotland is celebrated for many days on end. During this week long celebration, everyone dresses up like Vikings and shares in good food, good music, and a great deal of fun together.

South Africa

In South Africa they have a fun tradition of throwing their appliances out of the window on New Year’s Eve. This is symbolic of getting rid of the old, forgetting the old year, and starting afresh for the new year. Wouldn’t that be a fun tradition to adopt?! (Mediaite)

South America

Just like in Italy, citizens express their wishes for the New Year in the color of their underwear. White underwear is worn for good luck, red for a love desired, and yellow for wealth.

Spain

Many countries celebrate the New Year with big feasts full of interesting foods, but in Spain, it’s just one. On New Year’s Eve, citizens carry around a dozen green grapes to each at midnight. As the clock strikes twelve in the center of town, everyone eats their grapes one for each toll of the bell. For those that finish their grapes by midnight, they will receive good luck in the next year. This tradition is called las doce uvas de la suerte or “12 grapes for luck.” (CBSNews)

Thailand

In Thailand, all of the businesses in the country get involved in the New Year’s celebration. Hotels, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs all host parties for the citizens including offering food, music, and entertainment to everyone well into the morning hours.

The Netherlands

Like many countries simply trying to forget the old and start anew, the Netherlands does this by burning their Christmas trees in big bonfires and setting off big fireworks displays.

New Year’s Traditions Around the World
New Year’s Traditions Around the World | Source

The United States

All over the United States New Year’s is celebrated by throwing huge parties and sharing food and music with friends and family while waiting for midnight. While many families and groups of friends gather around the television to watch the celebrations going on all over, thousands more gather in locations all over the country to watch the ball drop, the peach drop, the boot drop, the pinecone drop, the carp drop, the pickle drop, the sardine drop, the possum drop, or anything else an area decides to drop at the stroke of midnight. At midnight, most will make a toast with a glass of champagne and kiss someone special to celebrate.

Turkey

In Turkey, everyone decorates their homes with sparkling lights, they decorate trees with lights and ornaments inside their homes and they get together with family for a big dinner. As Christmas is not celebrated in Turkey, they do all of the traditional “Christmas” traditions for New Year’s Eve. Even Santa Claus is associated with New Year’s Eve rather than Christmas.

Ukraine

Like in Turkey, those in the Ukraine do not celebrate Christmas, so they have all of the same traditions at New Year’s instead, including a tree, gathering with family over a big dinner, and even exchanging presents. They also reflect over everything that happened in the past year and make wishes for the New Year.

Wales

Finally, in Wales, it’s a New Year’s Day tradition to pass out gifts and money to friends and family members, though recently, bread and cheese has also become popular. For this memorable time of year, it’s not uncommon to also see fireworks, music, professional catering, ice skating and fairs.

Out with the old, in with the new! Isn’t this what New Year’s is all about?

Although every one celebrates it a little differently, even amongst individuals in the same country, New Year’s is a time when everyone considers the past year and all that they have accomplished, and then dreams about the coming year and all that they would like to happen.

It’s hard not to make wishes and dream dreams around this time of year. I hope that hearing some of the wonderful and creative traditions around the world that you have found some inspiration for how you celebrate with your friends and family members.

As I was writing this, I already found a few new traditions that we want in our household every year. I hope you have an amazing New Year’s celebration and an amazing new year coming.

What are wishing for?

Fireworks Around the World

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    • VVanNess profile image
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      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      How awesome! I love hearing about all of the different traditions people have all over the world during New Year's.

      Thanks for the comment. Happy New Year!

    • mts1098 profile image

      mts1098 3 years ago from InsideTheManCave

      We always get together with college friends and we alternate between their home in NJ and ours in PA. Our kids were born three days apart and we look forward to this gathering every year. Now we have added the NHL Winter classic to our day - cheers!

    • VVanNess profile image
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      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Thanks!! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. :) What kind of traditions do you have for New Year's?

    • mts1098 profile image

      mts1098 3 years ago from InsideTheManCave

      nicely done and very informative - I remember the Greece tradition :) Sharing on pinterest