New Year's Traditions Around the World

New Year's traditions are usually very interesting everywhere in the world. They all have unique traits and an unforgettable touch. Learn some interesting traditions in this article!
New Year's Traditions Around the World

Last update: 24 February, 2021

New year’s traditions around the world remind us that every beginning is sacred and eternal. In fact, our ancestors have celebrated it since ancient times. From Sumeria and the Saturnalia in Rome to Christian Christmas, the New Year has always brought with it a promise of prosperity.

Each country celebrates it differently, as it goes with the customs in each region. We’ll give you a summary here.

Have you ever participated in any of these celebrations?

Spain: Eat the 12 good luck grapes

The New Year in Spain is celebrated as a family with a good dinner, drinks, and the most important ritual: eating twelve grapes for good luck.

Some start to rat them to the rhythm of the chimes of the Puerta del Sol clock in Madrid, which many people watch on television. Others go to the square, and some stay at home with family.

It’s believed that the origin of this custom is linked to the manufacturing of wine in the area and an overproduction of the fruit. The one that influenced the spread of the tradition to all Spanish homes took place at the beginning of the 20th century.

Greece: Play on New Year’s Eve and hang an onion

New Year’s Eve in Greece is accompanied by various rituals. People play games, including cards or dice, because they believe that winning will bring a good year for them. Another custom is to serve bread with basil; one will have a coin hidden, and whoever gets it will be lucky.

One of the most widespread and traditional customs is that they hang an onion on the front door to attract prosperity in the New Year.

Fresh basil plants.

Japan: Prepare special dishes in the traditional washoku

The Japanese ring in the New Year by preparing different ornate delicacies to welcome the gods of the coming year.

In ritual food, or washoku, they use natural and local ingredients, such as rice, fish, vegetables, and edible wild plants, which they serve in special tableware.

Finland: Casting horseshoes

A few minutes after January 1, they take horseshoes and put them on a fire in a pan. Once the tin horseshoe is melted, they pour the liquid carefully into a bucket of cold water.

Depending on the form it takes when it cools down, it’ll predict your luck for the new year.

Denmark: Jump on a chair and break dishes

When it comes to New Year’s traditions, the Danes are ahead of the game. The ritual consists of throwing dishes at the doors of friends’ and families’ households at midnight.

 If possible, they throw the complete tableware set, since the number of fragments is proportional to the good luck that they want to go with them. Before that, they have jumped at exactly twelve o’clock on a chair to guarantee their own luck.

Russia: “Grandfather Winter” hands out gifts

On the night of December 31st, Grandfather Winter, Ded Moroz, visits homes with his granddaughter Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden. From an old and small city in the northwest of Russia, he travels the fast country. To wait for him, the Russians prepare with different activities.

Also, the variety of foods is important because it represents abundance. There is a belief that they will pass into the following year what they received.

Colombia: Carry a suitcase to guarantee travel

In Colombia, they go out for a suitcase to plan future trips in the New Year. It should be full as if the real journey were happening. In some outdoor places, while they’re celebrating, they burn a doll at midnight that represents the old year.

They also have some customs from Europe. For example, they may eat twelve grapes like in Spain and may enjoy lots of lentils like in Italy.

Christmas Island: First to ring in the New Year

To the northwest of Australia, in the Pacific Ocean, there’s an archipelago of about 5,000 inhabitants. There, on that coral island reservoir of animal life, the New Year will arrive earlier than anywhere else in the world.

How do they celebrate it?

With fireworks, parties, and gatherings in the villages.

Argentina: Burn the old year

As in many Latin American cities, in Argentina, the burning of the old year is a purifying ritual that the whole community participates in. It’s a very symbolic practice.

Fireworks over the town square.

Cape Town, the capital of South Africa, celebrates the second New Year

Cape Town people celebrate January 2, Tweede Nuwe Jaar, and call it the “second New Year.” That day, they remember the feast that their slave grandparents were allowed, once their masters’ festivities were over.

In Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, everybody starts with a clean slate. They throw away old furniture and objects into the street to purify and attract prosperity.

India: As Many New Year’s traditions as there are cultures

We have already seen that the end of the year isn’t just where the calendar ends; it’s cultural, religious, and geographic. In India, for example, there are various New Year’s traditions. In Bengal, it falls on April 15, the first day of the Bengali lunar calendar.

Also in the second week of April, the Malabari New Year, known as vishu takes place in Kerala. They consume the traditional sadya, served on a banana leaf. Additionally, they adorn elephants and scent the temples with incense.

However, the most widespread is the new year Diwali in November. On this day, they celebrate the victory of light over darkness, with candles and lanterns that cover the fascinating Hindu territory.

The winter solstice marks the difference in New Year’s traditions

In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice begins on December 21. The Christmas and New Year holidays are marked by this event which, in different cultures, represents a time of renewal and rebirth. Countries and regions in this part of the world end in similar ways: fireworks, ornate trees, colorful streets, and gifts.

Other regions and cultures are influenced by the spring equinox, March 20-21, and the autumnal equinox, September 21-22. At the end of the year, all festivities, as diverse as they are, are marked by seasons that meet and contrast.

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