In North America, New Year’s Eve traditions often include a kiss and a sip of champagne at midnight, followed by fireworks and maybe even a rendition of Auld Lang Syne–or at least the part people kinda know the words to. These traditions aren’t much different from the rest of the world, with midnight comedy specials, toasts and fireworks. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting and unique traditions to be found elsewhere.
If you’re looking to change things up this December 31, why not try a New Year’s Eve tradition from around the world? We have a few suggestions.
December 31 is the busiest day in Albania, with tradition dictating residents to call or text their loved ones at midnight.
Calling all the single ladies! The New Year’s celebration of Kaliday calls for unwed women to place piles of corn in front of themselves. A rooster is released and the woman whose pile of corn is first to go will be married in the coming year.
If you’re a farmer in Belgium, it’s tradition to wish your animals a happy New Year.
Brazilians can often be found wearing white on New Year’s Eve for good luck, which is also brought on by jumping over waves seven times. If you’re not near a beach, simply jump three times on your right foot at midnight.
A spoonful of lentils with your meal in Chile means that you’ll be financially prosperous in the coming year.
If you see people running with luggage on New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica, they’re not late for the airport. They’re participating in a traditional practice signifying travel and new adventures.
The Danish can often be found standing on chairs at the stroke of midnight, jumping into the air to leave bad spirits behind and landing into a fresh new year. Another tradition is to throw plates at the doors of friends’ or family members’ homes to bring good luck.
Some men in Ecuador celebrate the new year by dressing in drag to represent the widows of the year or Años Viejos, marking the end of the old and welcoming the new. Burning effigies of pop stars, politicians and other famous figures is also a common practice.
Salvadorans often crack eggs into a glass of water before midnight and then check on it again in the morning, with the shape of the egg predicting the coming year.
If you’re planning on visiting Estonia for New Year’s, bring your appetite. Some natives believe that people should eat seven, nine or 12 times on New Year’s Eve, all lucky numbers in Estonia. The meals should not be completely finished, though. Instead, people leave their leftovers for visiting spirits. Each meal is believed to give the person the strength of that many men in the coming year.
Many Nordic countries, including Germany, read their fortunes on New Year’s by pouring molten lead into cold water. The shape the lead takes will signal what’s in store for the coming year, such as a heart signifying love.
While Greeks may be known for smashing plates in celebration, on New Year’s Eve they smash pomegranates. The bigger the burst from the fruit, the more prosperous the new year.
The flattering stereotype of Italians making legendary lovers gets a head start every New Year’s Eve when Italians wear red underwear to ward off negativity and bring happiness in the coming year.
The Japanese make sure their homes are clean on New Year’s Eve to welcome Toshigami, the god of New Year’s. People may also dress as the animal for the coming year or attend a Buddist temple where a bell is rung 108 times.
In both North and South Korea, New Year’s Day is spent eating tteokguk, hot soup with thin rice cakes and an egg. Eating the soup is said to earn a person one year, while not eating the soup means bad luck.
MEXICO and SPAIN
On December 31, Mexicans and Spaniards eat one grape with each of the clock’s 12 chimes during the countdown to midnight, making a wish with each grape. This tradition is practiced in many Spanish-speaking countries, including Chile and Costa Rica. Mexico is also decorated with bright colours this time of year, with red for love, yellow for improved employment, green for financial success and white for a healthy year.
In some places in the Philippines, people often wear polka dots on New Year’s, believing the roundness signifies prosperity. For this reason as well, people often incorporate 12 round fruits into their New Year’s dinner, which signifies good luck for each month of the year. Lights are turned on in every room of the home for a bright year, and long noodles are eaten for a long life.
Similar to Mexico and Spain, the Portuguese eat 12 raisins at midnight to represent each month of the coming year. Locals make a wish for each raisin and wash them down with a glass of champagne.
You may want to grab an umbrella while celebrating the new year in Puerto Rico. Residents are known to fill buckets of water and throw the water out their window at midnight to ward off evil spirits.
Another way to ward off evil spirits is the Romanian New Year’s Eve tradition of dressing as a bear and dancing from house to house.
In Russia, people often write their wish for the new year on a piece of paper, burn the paper and mix the ash with a glass of champagne to drink at midnight.
In Scotland, the practice of First-Footing on New Year’s Eve describes friends and family going to one another’s homes with gifts of whisky or lumps of coal, salt, bread or a coin.
South Africans like to start fresh in the new year and that can sometimes mean throwing furntiture or appliances they no longer want out their window at midnight, letting go of the old and making room for the new.
Unlike the Italians, Venezuelans opt for yellow underwear instead of red. The colour is believed to bring luck, with people sometimes wearing their underwear on the outside of their clothes or not wearing clothes at all.