New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Almost every country celebrates the last day of the year with fireworks, although some of them have more unusual traditions in order to attract good luck and to start the year with the right foot. Even if you are not superstitious, some traditions are worth trying. It won’t hurt, right? 


  • In Spain, almost everyone will eat 12 grapes at midnight (one per stroke of the clock). It is considered bad luck if you can’t eat all of them!


  • In Italy, it is very traditional to eat pork and lentils for dinner on New Year’s Eve and to wear red underwear to attract love for the new year.


  • In Ireland, to get rid of evil spirits, people hit their doors with Christmas bread. At midnight on December 31, if you want to be extra lucky during the new year, Irish recommend entering your house from the front door and leaving it through the back one.


  • In Ecuador, they make scarecrows (called monigotes o viejos) that symbolize the old year and burn them at midnight. Some men will dress as women (las viudas de año nuevo) and perform dances in front of upcoming traffic to obtain coins from passersby.


  • In Peru, it is important to begin the new year wearing new yellow underwear. Wear them inside out until midnight and then turn them right side out immediately after twelve o’clock for good luck.


  • In France, New Year’s Eve is called La Saint Sylvestre and they celebrate it with a feast. French keep it “simple” and delicious, having foie gras, champagne and seafood and a stack of pancakes! They also kiss under the mistletoe for New Year’s, not on Christmas. 


  • In Greece, families traditionally eat vasilopita (a sweet bread) at midnight. You have to be careful with the slice you bite into, as a coin is normally baked into the bread. If you are fortunate enough to find it, you will have a year filled with good luck! Another tradition is hanging onions on the front door on New Year’s Eve to symbolize rebirth in the new year.


  • Hogmanay (the Scottish word for the last day of the year) is a big celebration in Scotland. People go door to door singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Have you heard about first footing? In Scotland the first person to step through the door of a home on New Year’s Day is seen as a bringer of good fortune. Traditionally, it is said to be good luck if the “first-foot” is not a resident of the home and is tall with dark hair. Said person may bring with them gifts that represent financial prosperity, food, flavor, warmth, long life and good cheer. 


  • If you are in England, specifically in London, for New Year’s, you can ring in the New Year with the chimes of Big Ben. You also can watch the fireworks display near the London Eye (Ferris wheel).


  • In Germany, they usually eat jam or chocolate filled doughnuts on New Year’s and drink Sekt (German sparkling wine). Another tradition is to watch the British comedy sketch “Dinner for One,” which ironically is relatively unknown across the UK.


  • Kenya keeps a traditional approach to New Year’s celebrations, by spending time with friends and family, going to church and watching fireworks displays before the countdown.


  • Cape Town is the place to celebrate New Year’s in South Africa. They have everything: from the familiar ball drop to magnificent fireworks displays and everything in between.


  • Japan has a lot of traditions for the New Year: Making and eating mochi, which is a family event, eating Toshikoshi soba, or year-end soba or sending nenga (New Year’s greetings) are some of these. All over Japan, at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve, all Buddhist temples ring their bells an even 108 times, an event called joya no kane.


Wherever you are and however you celebrate the beginning of the year…

Good luck and Happy New Year!

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