New Year’s Traditions from Around the World

Posted on Thursday December 29, 2016

Happy New Year!

This year we celebrated New Year’s traditions from around the world, including the Puerto Rican tradition of washing away the old year by throwing a bucket of water out the window, and the Chinese tradition of tossing coins for good luck. Check out the full list of traditions we researched (below).

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devin more-pennies

NEW YEAR’S TRADITIONS AROUND THE WORLD

ACTIVITIES

  • FIRST TO CELEBRATE: Samoa & Kiribati
  • LAST TO CELEBRATE: Baker Island & Howland Island
  • Kiribati Tribute: Lighting of Universal Fire
  • The practice of making New Year’s resolutions, said to have begun with the Babylonians as early as 2600 B.C., is another way to reflect on the past and plan ahead.
  • Resolutions: It is believed that the Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s resolutions, and people all over the world have been breaking them ever since. The early Christians believed the first day of the new year should be spent reflecting on past mistakes and resolving to improve oneself in the new year.
  • Germany and Austria: Molten lead is traditionally used to read the future. The lead is poured into a bowl of water and the various shapes formed by the lead are indications for the year ahead. A ball means luck across the year, an anchor foretells eventual need of help, while a cross spells death.  Lead pouring is an old practice that uses molten lead like tea leaves. Molybdomancy is an ancient technique of divination that involves interpreting the shapes formed by dropping melted lead into cold water. A small amount of lead is melted in a tablespoon (by holding a flame under the spoon) and then poured into a bowl of cold water.  The resulting shape of the lead is interpreted to predict the coming year. For instance, if the lead forms a ball, it means luck will roll your way. The shape of an anchor means help in time of need. A heart or ring shape means a wedding, a ship means a journey, and a pig means plenty of food in the year ahead. Lead pouring is also popular in Finland.
  • Mexico and Chile:In Mexico, New Year’s Eve is considered the best time to communicate with dead spirits and convey messages, or ask for guidance. Chileans have a similar practice and set up chairs beside the graves of loved ones to bring in the new year together with their departed relatives and friends.
  • Guto Nyth Bran of Wales: Pass a candle or torch around and then lay down a commemorative wreath in honor of Guto.  Afterwards, boil a kettle and run around the house as fast as you can as the kettle whistles.
  • In Costa Rica, the packing suitcases and the sharing of dreams is intended to conjure the desire to travel well and often
  • Puerto Ricans and Cubans literally wash away the old year by throwing buckets of water out the window.
  • People in Italy also discard unwanted items out window.
  • Japan: Men vs. Women Sing-Off/Haiku-Off
  • Poland: Musical performances inspired by the legendary life of St. Sylvester
  • Singapore: Floating Wishes & Spirit Boats
  • To start the year with a clean slate, people in Ecuador and Mexico burn unpleasant thoughts, portraits, or memories before midnight to eliminate negative feelings from the past year.
  • In Hungary, an effigy or scapegoat known as Straw Jack, which represents the evils and misfortunes of the past year, is carried around the village and burned on New Year’s Eve
  • In Singapore, jumping up high is believed to cause a growth spurt.
  • In various Latin American countries, people wear bright colored clothing on New Years with the hope that doing so will bring them good luck in the coming year
  • Folks in the Philippines often wear circular patterns (like polka dots) with the hope that doing so will bring them prosperity in the coming year
  • Greece: An extra place is set at the table for St. Basil. An onion is hung on the front door — alongside a pomegranate that has been hanging there since Christmas — as a symbol of rebirth and growth. Around midnight the lights are turned off and the family goes outside. The pomegranate is given to one person who smashes it against the door as the clock strikes midnight.
  • Romania: In the past, people would throw old personal effects out the windows and smash plates, glasses, vases and other pottery against the ground to drive away bad spirits.
  • Jews who observe Rosh Hashanah make time for personal introspection and prayer, as well as visiting graves.
  • SCOTLAND:  coal, shortbread and silverware are exchanged for good luck
  • Wales:  People celebrate Calennig, which means New Years in Welsh. The celebration traditionally is a time to give gifts to family, friends and neighbors. Today it is customary to give cheese and bread on New Years morning.
  • Netherlands: The Dutch burn bonfires of Christmas trees on the street and launch fireworks. The fires are meant to purge the old and welcome the new.
  • China (and many other prosperous countries) set off fireworks
  • Ecuador:Ecuadorians celebrate the new year by gathering and burning portraits or something else that represents the previous year as a way to get rid of the past. Thousands of these fires light up the country on New Year’s Eve.
  • Mexico: To start the year with a clean slate, people write a list of all the unhappy events that happened during the year, then throw the list into a fire before midnight to eliminate the negative feelings of the past year.
  • Hungary:  An effigy or scapegoat known as Jack Straw, which represents the evils and misfortunes of the past year, is carried around the village, then burned on New Year’s Eve.
  • Cuba: Throw a bucket of water out front door and open up window/door at midnight
  • Denmark: The Danish throw their old plates at their friends’ and neighbors’ doors as a sign of good luck and friendship. Cleaning up isn’t much of a bother because the higher the stack the more friends one has. The Danes also leap off chairs at midnight to banish bad spirits from the New Year.  Denmark: It is a good sign to find your doorstep heaped with a pile of broken dishes on New Year’s Day. Old dishes are saved all year to throw at friends’ homes on New Year’s Eve. Lots of broken dishes is a sign that you have many friends.
  • England: Traditional gifts are coal for the fire, a loaf for the table and a drink for the master. For good luck, the guest should enter through the front door and leave through the back door. Guests who are empty handed are not allowed to enter first.  The English followed the custom of cleaning their chimneys on New Year’s Day to bring good luck to the household for the coming year. The expression “cleaning the slate” came from this custom.
  • Japan: On New Year’s Day, the Japanese give money to children in a tradition known as otoshidama. The money is put in small, decorated envelopes called pochibukuro
  • New York City: Probably the most famous tradition in the United States is the dropping of the New Year ball in Times Square, New York City, at 11:59 M. Thousands gather to watch the ball make its one-minute descent, arriving exactly at midnight. The tradition first began in 1907. The original ball was made of iron and wood; the current ball is made of Waterford Crystal, weighs 1,070 pounds, and is six feet in diameter
  • Around midnight in Greece, the lights are turned off and the family goes outside. The pomegranate is giving to one person who smashes it as the clock strikes midnight.
  • At midnight, Buddhist temples ring a bell 108 times.
  • Hong Kong: Start counting down at 60
  • The tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight comes from Spain. At midnight, Spaniards try to consume a grape at each chime before the clock stops chiming to bring in the new year.  Each grape is a wish.  This 12 grapes of luck tradition has been carried over to other countries, like Mexico, Peru, and Singapore.  In Peru, the 13th grape must be eaten to ensure good luck.
  • Singapore:  To increase wealth for the coming year and jumping up high which is believed to cause a growth spurt.
  • People dance around the table with instruments
  • Italians – bells
  • Swiss – drums
  • Philippines:Those hoping for more money in the new year can try the Filipino tradition of dressing in clothes with circular patterns like polka dots and eating circular food like grapes. The circular shape echoes the shape of coins and is meant to bring prosperity in the new year.
  • In Mexico, people decorate their homes with different colors of things they want in the new year. Red is for love, green is for money and yellow is for work.
  • South America:People wear bright underwear to bring them good luck in the new year. Those looking for love opt for red while those seeking fortune wear yellow.

 

In China and the Philippines, circles and coins are thrown into a bucket for good luck.

    • Japan:  Giving money or coins to children is considered to bring good luck
    • The round symbol goes back to coins, which is signifies prosperity.
    • Another tradition includes throwing coins at midnight, to increase wealth
  • Brooklyn, New York: Bang Pots and Pans at Midnight
  • New Gloucester, Maine:
    • Sunset Salutations: The first wishes of the New Year
    • The Midnight Kiss:An old classic that is celebrated across the world is sharing a kiss with your sweetheart in order to ensure love and friendship in the upcoming year

 

FOOD

  • Rice promises prosperity in India and Pakistan
  • Deep South:  A traditional southern New Year’s dish is called Good Luck Hoppin’ Johns —black eyed peas and ham hocks, and there’s an old saying goes, “Eat peas on New Year’s day to have plenty of everything the rest of the year.”
  • In the southern United States, black-eyed peas and pork foretell good fortune.
  • Collard Greens are commonly served on New Year’s Eve in places like Mississippi
  • Sausage Balls are a traditional New Year’s dish in Poland
  • In Swiss homes, dollops of whipped cream, symbolizing the richness of the year to come, are dropped on the floor and allowed to remain there
  • Pretzels are thought to represent togetherness and limitlessness in France
  • Lentil Soup: The lentil signifies wealth in Brazil and is believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
  • Japan:  Sometimes, at around 11 p.m. a bowl of noodles is eaten for the last time in the year.
  • Rosca de Reyes (Mexican sweet breads) are baked with a charm or coin hidden in the dough. Whoever receives the slice with the coin or charm is said to be blessed with good luck for the New Year.  Similar traditions in which objects are hidden within various deserts also take place in France, Norway, and Greece.
  • Greece: New Year’s day is also the Festival of  Basil, one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church. One of the traditional foods served is Vassilopitta, or St Basil’s cake. A silver or gold coin is baked inside the cake. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be especially lucky during the coming year.
  • China:  Eating any ring-shaped treats (such as a donut) symbolize “coming full circle” and leads to good fortune.
  • Apples dipped in honey are a Rosh Hashanah tradition.
  • Gifts of gilded nuts or coins marked the start of the new year in Rome.
  • Eggs, the symbol of fertility, were exchanged by the Persians.
  • FRANCE: The pretzel is a symbol of Alsace, and is popular throughout the year, but especially at holiday time. Pretzels are thought to represent togetherness, limitlessness, luck and blessings. It is said that one can view the divine star three times through the openings in the pretzel.
    • The traditional salted pretzel is the year-round standard, but on New Year’s Eve a sweet pretzel made of brioche dough is a ritual gift from a young man to his lady love. On New Year’s Day, grandparents give sweet pretzels to their grandchildren.
    • Brazil: The lentil signifies wealth, so on the first day of the new year, Brazilians serve lentil soup or lentils and rice.
    • France: A special New Year’s bread, Vassilopita, is baked with a coin hidden in the dough. The first slice is for the Christ child; the second for the father of the household, and the third slice is for the house. If the third slice holds the coin, spring will come early that year.
    • Norway: Norwegians prepare rice pudding with one almond hidden inside. The person whose serving contains the lucky almond is assured wealth in the coming year.
  • The tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight comes from Spain.
  • Spain:At midnight, Spaniards try to consume a grape at each chime before the clocks stops chiming to bring in the new year. The “12 grapes of luck” tradition has been carried over to other Spanish-influenced countries like Mexico, the US and the Philippines.
    • At midnight, Mexicans eat a grape with each chime at midnight. Each grape is a wish
  • In Peru, a 13th grape must be eaten to assure good luck.
  • Italy: Lenticchie (lentils) are believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
  • Italy: Cotechino is a savory pork sausage that contains lo zampone, a pig’s foot, and is a symbol of abundance.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!