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New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World

New Year’s Eve is a time of celebrating a bygone 365 days and welcoming what lies ahead. In America, it’s marked by a big ball drop in Times Square, a kiss with your significant other when the clock strikes 12, and popped corks from bottles of champagne and wine. Everyone is in good spirits and feeling optimistic about the future.

There’s no right way to celebrate auld lang syne as long as you’re making wishes and going into the new year with a positive attitude. Across the world, people of all ages want to spend this celebration with family, friends, and loved ones.

Maybe you can’t afford to travel across the border or over the oceans to see these celebrations. Get your passport ready because we’re taking you to every continent to share New Year’s traditions around the world!

EUROPE

Denmark –  They may not have their own Times Square, but the people of Denmark still gather in masses to celebrate the new year. It’s tradition to listen to the Queen’s speech and then head over to the Royal Palace in Copenhagen to wait for the clock’s chime. It’s also customary to shatter unused dishes and plates, as well as climb on top of chairs and literally jump into New Year’s Day at midnight to bring good luck.

Estonia New Year's Eve

Image source: Slim V., Youtube

Estonia – If you want to ensure you don’t go hungry 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 365 days. These numbers are considered the luckiest so it’s completely encouraged to cheat on your diet and start the new year with an extra pound or two. Rest assured, leaving some food on the plate for ancestral spirits is encouraged.

Ireland – Before getting excited about the new year, the Irish people make sure to spot clean their entire house. They even go outside and give the same TLC to their garden and cars. When it gets closer to midnight, it’s tradition to throw bread at the walls to chase away evil spirits. This is followed by a special dinner where they reminisce about family and close friends who passed away. To honor their loved ones, they leave the door unlatched and set a place at the table.

Scotland New Year's Eve

Image source: A. Hughes, Express

Scotland – Neighbors visit each other and impart wishes to celebrate Hogmanay. The first person to cross the threshold of a home in the new year should carry in a gift for good luck. However, it’s considered most lucky if the “first-footer” is a tall handsome man with dark hair. Meanwhile, the celebration outside involves traditional bagpipes and drums playing. There are also balls made of wire filled with paper and material scraps that are set on fire and tossed into the bay.

Germany – Berlin is home to one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in Europe with millions of people showing up each year. It’s called Silvester and involves parties, fireworks, and Sekt (German sparkling wine). At home, families melt lead by holding a flame under a tablespoon. They pour it into a bucket of water and the pattern is said to predict the coming year. A heart/ring shape means an upcoming wedding, a ball means luck will roll your way, and a pig means you’ll have plenty of food.

 

AUSTRALIA

Australia New Year's Eve

Image source: B. Cumming, ABC

Celebrate the holiday during the peak of the summer. In Australia, they celebrate New Year’s Eve while the sun is shining bright. Fireworks mark the end of the new year, the most elaborate occurring at midnight in Sydney Harbor. The day is meant for relaxation, visiting family and friends, and if you have time, attending one of the many horse racing carnivals, parades, or summer fairs.

 

AFRICA

South Africa – In South Africa, they’re all about out with the old and in with the new. During New Year’s Eve, it’s customary to throw old furniture out the window and into the street. This isn’t as heavily in practice today, instead being replaced with great firework displays and all-night parties. Cape Town in particular holds a special carnival with singing, dancing, bright clothes, and face paint.

Ethiopia New Year's Eve

Image Source: Rasta Ites

Ethiopia – Ethiopia is one of the only countries in the world to recognize a 13th month. Interestingly enough, they celebrate the new year on September 11th with huge festivities. The event is called Enkutatash, which translates to “gift of jewels,” and harks back to the days when the Queen of Sheba went on a trip and was gifted with jewels upon her return. Today, children receive small gifts and adults gather with friends and family.

Nigeria – Celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Nigeria involve elaborate parties where friends and family exchange wishes and offer prayers. Lagos holds many masquerades such as the Calabar Carnival and Lagos Countdown where citizens dress in animal masks and perform high energy dances on the streets. This tradition symbolizes good luck and cheerfulness and wards away evil energy and negativity. The best part is their celebration lasts for 20 days and begins on December 7th or 8th.

Zimbabwe New Year's Eve

Image source: KHBUZZ

Zimbabwe –Why celebrate New Year’s Eve for only one night? That’s the thought in Zimbabwe where they host a 3-day extravaganza with big crowds at Jameson Vic Falls Carnival. Entertainment includes fire dancers, stilt walkers, and the continent’s biggest waterfall. There are also many live performances by local deejays and other up-and-coming musicians.

Senegal – New Year’s Eve is a joyous occasion, marked by the colorful Le Fanal Festival in Senegal. Lanterns are lit and paraded down the street with drumming and singing.  People dress up in elaborate costumes and embrace the music. There is also the annual Abéné Festivalo, a 10-day drumming festival that begins at the end of December and extends all the way to January. Aside from the music, there is also traditional Senegalese wrestling matches.

 

NORTH AMERICA

Mexico New Year's Eve

Image source: K. Gardiner, Sherman’s Travel

Mexico – The Año Neuvo is a time of embracing renewal. This is marked by throwing buckets of water out the window and opening the front door to symbolically sweep out the old year. Families toss coins onto the ground and sweep them back into the house to encourage a prosperous future. Meanwhile, they attend decorative parties, parades, and festivals, complete with eye-catching fireworks and the traditional Latin American custom of burning scarecrows.

Puerto Rico – Similar to other Latin cultures, the people in Puerto Rico throw pails of water out the window to drive away evil spirits and eat 12 grapes at midnight. As in Ireland, they also clean everything – the car, their house, the garden, the streets. This is meant to start New Year’s Eve with a fresh slate. To encourage a lucky future, families also sprinkle sugar outside of their house. Traditional food is served to celebrate including arroz con gandules, pasteles, roasted pig, coquito, and rice pudding.

Canada New Year's Eve

Image source: T. Jerven, Daily Hive

Canada – The people embrace similar celebrations as their American neighbors across the border. This includes drinks, fireworks, and live music. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can also do the polar bear plunge, a tradition that involves going into freezing waters to raise money for charities. Of course, you can also visit Niagara Falls and enjoy the countdown by one of the country’s most famous landmarks.

 

SOUTH AMERICA

Spain – Some people celebrate New Year’s Eve with delicious wine. If you’re in Spain, however, you will enjoy the grapes before they are fermented. The tradition is to eat 12 grapes one at a time at midnight. Each grape represents one of your wishes, and if you manage to stuff every one into your mouth, all your dreams will come true! Another custom is to wear colored underwear, each representing a different hope for the new year.

Ecuador New Year's Eve

Image Source: El Universal

Ecuador – At the annual Años Viejos, the people in Ecuador burn scarecrows at midnight. These are filled with paper or sawdust and modeled after a public figure who somehow wronged the world in the previous year, such as a corrupt politician or a celebrity who fell from grace. This tradition originated in Guayaquil in 1895 when a yellow fever epidemic hit the town and coffins packed with the deceased’s clothes were burned for purification. The Ecuadorians also burn photographs from the previous year in the name of good fortune and starting fresh.

Brazil –Thankfully, the weather in Brazil is nice all year since people love to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the water. It’s considered good luck if you can jump over seven different waves while making wishes, one for each wave. Additionally, they enjoy fireworks on Rio de Janeiro’s shores while eating lentils, which signify wealth. The most popular color to wear is white as it is said to bring good luck and peace. Similar to Años Viejos, they burn life-sized dolls with face masks that represent bad events from the past year.

Peru New Year's Eve

Image source: Aracari

Peru – As is the case in most South American countries, the Peruvians celebrate the new year with grapes, fireworks, and traditional food. However, they also have their own custom that involves putting three potatoes under a chair. One is peeled, one is partially peeled, and the other has all its skin. At midnight, a person chooses a potato with their eyes closed and each yields a prediction for the future. If you get the one with skin, you’ll be prosperous, the one that’s partially peeled means you’ll have a normal year, and the one with no skin means you’re destined to have no money.

Chile – New Year’s Eve in Chile is meant to honor the dearly departed. Families in Talca spend the night in the company of their deceased loved ones by sleeping at the cemetery. Beforehand, they all gather for an abundant dinner that includes stuffed turkey or some kind of other meat. When it hits midnight, they celebrate with eye-catching fireworks and wear certain colors as is tradition in South America to indicate a hope for the future. For the night, they bring along small snacks and drinks and light fires next to the graves.

 

ASIA

Philippines New Year's Eve

Image source: Babies Ideas

Philippines – The people in the Philippines believe that everything should be round during New Year’s Eve. The reason is to represent coins and bring wealth into the future. The celebration includes plenty of noise with horns, music, yelling, blowing whistles, clanging pots and pans, and lighting firecrackers to keep away bad luck and evil spirits. In addition to the noise, Filipino people also eat traditional pancit noodles and delicacies like malagkit and biko. Before the clock strikes midnight, all the windows and doors, including cabinets, cupboards, and drawers, are left open to allow good luck to enter.

Thailand – Even though it’s on the other side of the world, Thailand adopts the same custom of throwing water as in South American countries. However, their tradition also includes smearing each other with gray talc during Songkran. The talc represents the sins of the previous year with the water washing away all wrongdoings. The entire festival lasts for three days and includes lighting candles and incense at shrines. As in other countries, they also play games, eat traditional foods, and spend quality time with family.

China New Year's Eve

Image source: V. Louise, Pretty Girls Sweat

China – The Chinese New Year celebration occurs anywhere between late January and the third week of February. Parades of dancing dragons and lions, representing longevity and wealth, weave their way through crowded streets. People throughout the country light plastic firecrackers to create loud noises that scare away evil spirits. Additionally, families give out lucky money to their loved ones. These are put in red envelopes with their family name and good luck messages written in gold.

South Korea – New Year’s Eve is a special occasion in South Korea. Many of their seaside towns hold “sunrise festivals” where people watch the first sunrise of the New Year. If you make a wish as the sun rises, it will come true for the new year. Some people also write down their hopes and dreams and put them in balloons or lanterns that are released into the sky. Koreans wear traditional hanboks and focus on reconnecting with family. They also make duk gook rice cakes or dumplings to offer to their ancestors.

Japan New Year's Eve

Image source: Chica Manga

Japan – New Year’s Eve, or Oshogatsu, is marked by all the bells in the country getting rung 108 times. This aligns with the Buddhist belief of bringing cleanness into the new year. In Japan, the holiday is celebrated with a three-day festival full of games, food, and family. People place kadomatsus (pine branches, bamboo, plum twigs) outside their home, one on either side of the entrance, as a way to welcome good spirits. As in China, children are given otoshidamas which are small gifts or decorated envelopes with money.

 

The earliest celebrations of the New Year came around the same time as the invention of the calendar, dating back to ancient Mesopotamia over 4,000 years ago. New Year’s Eve customs around the world are all unique with each country having their own way of celebrating. The new year superstitions are meant to create good luck, fortune, happiness, and overall a better near future. Whether you’re backpacking through Europe or enjoying the sights down under, there’s no doubt you’ll feel both nostalgic and hopeful. It just goes to show these feelings are universal and are shared by everyone on this special holiday!

 

References:

Pegg, D. (2017, November 21). 25 Strangest New Year’s Traditions From Around the World. Retrieved May 3, 2018, from https://list25.com/25-strangest-new-years-traditions-from-around-the-world/

Fadden, C. (2017, December 26). New Year’s Traditions Around the World. Retrieved May 3, 2018, from http://www.carolinaparent.com/CP/New-Years-Traditions-Around-the-World/

Yerin, K. (2017, December 28). 8 Unique New Year’s Eve Traditions from Around the World. Retrieved May 3, 2018, from http://www.instyle.com/lifestyle/new-years-eve-traditions-around-world

Petro, B. (2017, September 12). History of Ethiopian New Year: What is Enkutatash? Retrieved May 8, 2018, from http://billpetro.com/history-of-ethiopian-new-year

Barbezat, S. (2017, December 31). New Year’s Eve in Mexico. Retrieved May 8, 2018, from https://www.tripsavvy.com/new-years-eve-in-mexico-1588741

La Costanera. (2015, December 26). Peruvian New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions. Retrieved May 8, 2018, from http://lacostanerarestaurant.com/blog/peruvian-new-years-traditions-superstitions/

Aguiluz, A. (2016, December 30). Chilean Traditions for the New Year. Retrieved May 8, 2018, from https://www.thisischile.cl/chilean-traditions-for-the-new-year/?lang=en



Bubba

Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on

Comments

  1. Amy Swanson

    I think I love Sicily’s tradition the best, any excuse to eat lasagna is a good one in my book 😉 I knew about America’s traditions but never knew the back story. I just thought people were celebrating the new year by shouting and making as much noise as possible because they could or they were drunk, never knew it was to keep evil away.

    This was a very interesting post to read, Jen!

  2. Juliette Vincent

    I love reading about other New Year’s traditions!

    And maybe it’s a southern thing but I was brought up that on New Year’s Day at dinner you should eat black eyed peas for luck (one pea per day of luck) and collard greens for a wealthy (or at least financially happy) year. 🙂

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I had no idea that England was so strict about its New Year’s Eve traditions. Geez, if anyone is visiting around that time, make sure that you have a ton of bread with you. Otherwise, Sicily has an excellent tradition (yay, lasagna!) and I think I need to head to Norway – I’ve got my eye on that almond.

    Great post, Jen! It was fun to hear about these different traditions from around the world. Maybe doing them all would quadruple ensure good luck? 🙂

  4. Amanda

    Great post idea Jen!! It’s so interesting to learn that Jan. 1 was picked randomly!! It is kinda weird to have a new year begin in the middle of cold weather. It would make sense to have it start at the beginning of spring, or a different season. It’s weird how Jan. 1 never seemed like a strange date until now… =) I love random facts like this.

  5. Rachel

    Neat post, Jen! I’ll have to agree with others and say that lasagna on New Years is a great tradition! 😉 But these were all really interesting to read. Thanks for sharing your research! 🙂

  6. Jen

    Thanks everyone! I loved researching this topic. There are so many more countries with fun and interesting traditions I didn’t get to incorporate. So if you’re still interested just Google search “New Year traditions around the world”. There are a ton of fun facts out there! Happy New Year!!!

  7. Sachin

    India is the country of “unity in diversity”. And by the replication of their diverse religious cultures and traditions this new year is celebrated in the unique way; by enjoying with their friends and relatives as imbibing to be the betterment of the individual as well as the nation. And have follow the idea-
    “The new year will not make change in you,
    if you will not do anything”

  8. Raul Petric

    Great blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any recommendations? Thanks!

    • Bubba

      WordPress is a great place to start! We’d definitely recommend building a following on a free platform and then moving on to other options as you continue perfecting your writing. Whichever platform makes you feel most at home is what you should go with. 🙂

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  11. TrendingHours

    Interesting.. Thank you!

  12. Tapan

    Thanks for such a useful information. This year i start first time New Year’s event blog. This information is very useful for me.. Thanks Again

  13. ram

    nice

  14. Akshay

    Wow its really awesome to know about the new year traditions !
    Happy New year 🙂

  15. arina paul

    this is a awesome post ,i loved reading this insightful article .
    i will be looking for new post from you soon .
    thanks for writing

  16. jeening vincent

    you are a best writer i have found after long time .great blog keep writing
    many countries have different traditions and cultures ,so does Russia ,india ,America etc
    thanks for writing

  17. oshima rienna

    Hi friend
    new year is the best time to celebrate close with family
    i enjoyed with my family
    you have writing a great post
    thanks for writing

    have a good day

  18. Aaron Finch

    I see you have something to talk about. Well, I have something to shout about. Infact something to sing about. But I’ll just keep quiet and let you carry on.

  19. Annie Gibbons

    Me gusta la tradición de España y Perú porque me gusta las uvas.

  20. Colt Ledger

    thank you so much for sharing this here. i am greatly inspired by your blog

  21. sachin khanna

    very nice thaks

  22. somon

    great information about new years traditions, really awesome to know

  23. Happy New Year 2018 Quotes

    i am for the first time here. I found this board and I in finding It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to present something back and help others such as you helped me.

  24. Shahzad Memon

    I had no idea that new york was so strict about its New Year’s Eve traditions. if anyone is visiting around that time, make sure that you have a ton of bread with you.

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