More people celebrate New Years around the world than any other holiday, but they don’t all celebrate it in the same way. Each country seems to have its own unique New Years celebrations, with different customs for ensuring health, wealth, happiness, and luck in the coming year.
As we learn more about the various New Years celebrations around the world, we may discover strange cultural twists that seem foreign but very interesting to us.
So let’s take a look at some of the more interesting New Year traditions around the world, and see how people rang in 2019.
America: New Year customs are very colorful and entertaining event. You can have fun at the dance parties which is one of the major celebrations on New Year eve. At the stroke of midnight all the Americans shares kisses and express their New Year greetings. This tradition came in existence from the masked ball which symbolizes evil spirits. It is believed that when you kiss it wades off the veil spirits and purifies the new beginning. With the change of celebrating ways people have altered this tradition. They honk car horns to express the announcement of New Year party time. People blow paper blowers and whistles which is very exciting way of wishing happy new year!
Australia: Sydney Harbour hosts one of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world. It’s mid-summer in the southern hemisphere, and thousands of people gather around the Opera House in anticipation. An aerial show and water display kick off the celebration at 6pm. A family-friendly fireworks show starts at 9pm, while the main attraction– the Harbour Light Parade– is at midnight.
Austria: Austrians find good luck charm in Suckling pigs. They serve it on the dinner table with edible pigs and the peppermint ice creams are served as desserts for fortune.
Belarus: In Belarus, New Year’s is included as a part of a 13-day festival known as Kaliady. Kaliady originates from the old pagan recognition of the winter solstice. It was only later that the Orthodox Christians added the celebration of Christmas (on January 7). Kaliady has customary foods in three ritual dinners, trick-or-treating, caroling, and more.
Belgium: In Belgium, Walloon and Flemish farmers rise early on New Year’s Day and promptly head out the stables to wish the cows (and other domesticated animals) a happy New Year. Though the origins of this tradition are unknown, the same thing is also practiced in Romania.
Bolivia: In Bolivia coins are baked into sweets, and whoever finds the coins has good luck for the next year.
Brazil: Brazilians believe that lentils signify wealth and prosperity. So they serve food items made up of the legume like soup or rice on the New Year. On New Year’s Eve, the priestesses dress up in blue and white for an auspicious ceremony celebrated for the water goddess. Also a sacrificial boat filled with jewelry, candles and flowers from the beach of Rio de Janeiro is pushed to the ocean that brings health, wealth and happiness for them. Believing in the idea of lucky New Year’s underpants, in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, the color of underwear helps to determine the wearer’s specific successes for next year. Red brings love, yellow brings money, green brings luck, and so on. Local markets will be festooned with colored underpants leading up to the New Year.
Chile: In the small town of Tulca, Chile, it is tradition to spend the last night of the year at a sleepover at the cemetery. Locals believe that the souls of dearly departed friends and family come to hang around on the night of New Year’s Eve. So they make fires, bring food and drink, and decorate their loved ones’ graves for some ghostly quality time.
China: To symbolize happiness and good luck in the New Year, Chinese celebrants paint their front doors red. In general, red colors New Years Eve in China, with red packets of money for children, red rackets for married couples, and red lanterns.
Colombia: In Colombia they carry their suitcases around with them all day in hopes of having a travel filled year.
Denmark: As a sign of friendship, people save their old dishes in order to break them on each other’s front doors. Residents will allow these broken dishes to pile up in order to show who has the most friends. Also, People climb on top of chairs and literally “jump” into the New Year to bring good luck. This symbolizes jumping forward into the new year and leaving bad things behind.
Ecuador: In Ecuador, los años viejos (the old years) is a beloved part of how to celebrate the New Year. People construct large scarecrows of those they don’t like and set them alight at midnight in order to burn away the ills of last year. Building the scarecrow is a family activity. While it’s mostly done for fun and laughs, controlling the bevy of fires is sometimes a serious undertaking.
Egypt: In Egypt, the New Year’s Day celebration changes according to the moon. But, unlike other countries that go the lunar route, here the festivities do not begin until a crescent moon is sighted!
England: For good fortune in the newly arrived year, Brits believe the first guest to enter through the front door should be a young, dark-headed male bearing gifts such as bread (to be full), salt (to be wealthy) and coal (to stay warm).
Estonia: Tradition dictates that the holiday should be celebrated with a lucky number of meals, with either seven, nine, or twelve trips to the table. However many meals you choose, you’re said to have the strength of that many men (or women). Most people eat seven times on new years day to ensure abundance in the new year.
Finland: In Finland people predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a bucket of water and interpreting the resulting shape.
France: The French are known for their weird food preferences. On New Year’s Eve, edible opulence steals the show in the form of le reveillion de la Saint-Sylvestre. Partiers will feast for hours on foie gros, goose or turkey, oysters, and of course plenty of champagne. The top-flight fare is meant to signify wealth in the year to come. The French also like to keep things simple and delicious. Every new year they consume a stack of pancakes.
Germany: Lead is considered to be auspicious here. They pour molten lead into cold water and the shape that is taken after, predicts the future. Heart shapes symbolize marriage whereas round shapes denote good luck; anchor shapes tell that you need help. However, a cross signifies someone’s sad demise.
India: While January first is certainly celebrated there, the New Year celebration in India actually has many different dates. Rongali Bihu is the most popular: It’s celebrated in mid-April, on the first day of the Hindu solar calendar. But the specific day of celebration changes from region to region.
Ireland: In Ireland they hit the walls with bread to get rid of evil spirits
Israel: The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana brings in the New Year in early autumn, as does the Islamic New Year (usually in late September). Many Orthodox Christians in Israel celebrate New Year’s on the first of September.
Italy: Like the Vietnamese, Italians wear new clothes to ring in the New Year. As with the Russians, it’s a time for presents, with each gift (things like honey, gold, money, and lamps) symbolizing something specific for the receiver. The gifts are serious business!
Japan: In Japan they ring all of their bells 108 times in alignment with the Buddhist belief that this brings cleanness. It’s also considered good to be smiling going into the New Year as it supposedly brings good luck. The chimes symbolize purification from the accumulation of these passions over the previous year. Oshogatsu is celebrated with family, which both cleans and decorates the entire house together. Then natural decorations such as pine branches, plum blossoms, and bamboo play a special role in preparing for the New Year celebration.
Louisiana: The New Year’s food tradition I grew up with is eating Cajun-style black-eyed peas and cabbage, with the promise that it will deliver health and wealth over the next 12 months. Even after 12 years of living and working abroad, I’ve never stopped celebrating the New Year with the dish!
Netherlands: Amsterdam hosts one of the world’s largest street parties on New Year’s Eve. If you attend, buy some oliebollen (oily balls) to eat at midnight. Tradition holds that eating these deep fried dough balls will ward off evil spirits in the New Year. Dam Square (the craziest), Rembrandtplein, Nieuwmarkt, and Leidseplein host unofficial street parties with music, fireworks and beer tents. Amsterdam’s celebration is not for the casual partier: Some attendees have likened it to a war zone!
Panama: In Panama, the New Year’s tradition for good luck is burning effigies of everyone and anyone famous. Rather than simply setting them on fire, the dolls are typically stuffed with fireworks in order to really get the festivities cranking.
Peru: Every year at the end of December people in this small Peruvian village fist fight during their Takanakuy Festival to settle their differences. They then start the year off on a clean slate.
Philippines: For New Year’s in the Philippines, round is all the rage. People eat round foods, carry coins in their pockets, and wear clothing with lots of polka dots. The round shape symbolizes money, and is believed to boost your finances for the new year.
Puerto Rico: In addition to cleaning their homes as the Japanese do, Puerto Ricans clean everything— the car, the garden, and even the streets. They also have a practice of throwing buckets of water out the window in order to do away with the bad juju or spirits of last year.
Romania: In Romania they throw their spare coins into the river to get good luck. And just like in Belgium, Romanian farmers try to communicate with their cows. If they succeed, then it means good luck for the year.
Russia: In a throwback to the Soviet era, most of Russia (except for Russian Orthodox Christians) celebrates something similar to Christmas at New Year’s. Grandfather Frost visits at midnight to leave presents while the kids aren’t looking. Christmas was actually banned in Russia during Soviet times, so New Year’s took its place!
Scotland: Celebrating Hogmanay, which denotes the last day of the year, is a big deal in Scotland. So much so that it often overshadows Christmas. Christmas was outlawed by the Church of Scotland for nearly four centuries, until 1958. Though the holiday has regained its popularity, the New Year Festival of Hogmanay still holds a sacred place in Scottish hearts. Also, the first person to cross the threshold of a home in the new year should carry a gift for good luck.
Siberia: In Siberia they jump into frozen lakes carrying tree trunks.
South Africa: Some South Africans—particularly those in the neighborhood of Hillbrow in Johannesburg— take cleaning house for the new year to an entirely new level. Throwing old furniture and appliances (think fridges!) from the windows of tall buildings somehow helps to make the new year bright. It’s actually a very serious health hazard there!
South America: In some South American countries wearing colored underwear will determine your fate for the new year. Red underwear means you’ll find love. Gold means wealth, and white signifies peace. South Americans also create fake persons or dummies and it is placed outside the home. This scarecrow looking toy is stuffed with waste papers and fire crackers. The dummy is dressed like human and it is believed that this symbolized last year. At the midnight, all the elders of the family set the dummies on fire. This depicts the wading off the old year and evils to welcome the New Year. As, the dummy burns the firecrackers also go off to add sparkle and color.
Spain: A challenge in speed-eating, Spain’s New Year’s food tradition requires that people eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve – one for each time the clock chimes. Otherwise, superstition suggests that you’ll miss out on extra good luck for the coming year!
Switzerland: In a strange cultural twist, the Swiss don’t actually eat their New Year’s treat. Instead, they simply drop whipped cream or ice cream on the floor and leave it there. Obviously, that means richness in the coming year, right?
Thailand: Besides throwing buckets of water on each other in Thailand, they also go around smearing each other with gray talc.
Turkey: In Turkey, wearing red underwear at midnight on New Year’s Eve is crucial to bring good luck in the coming year.
United States: Each year, hundreds of thousands of people flock to New York City to see the Big Apple drop at midnight. This New Year’s Eve tradition actually began as a replacement for fireworks, which had been banned in New York. In addition to watching balls drop, in other US cities you can watch peaches, giant walleye, and other locally relevant symbols lowered as the clock strikes midnight. It is also believed that black-eyed peas and turnip or collard greens are very lucky.
Vietnam: The Vietnamese wear brand new clothes to bring in the New Year with a fresh start. These clothes are not the modern Western styles that most people wear in their daily life, but rather a traditional outfit called ao dai, featuring a long gown worn with trousers.