Everyone loves celebrating the new year. It’s a time to reflect on the previous year’s successes (and its non-successes, too) to help you figure out what kind of person you want to be and what you want to do for the next 365 days.
In the U.S., we have some very particular traditions. We all enjoy the midnight countdown, and there is even a recent movie dedicated to people searching for their midnight kisses. Some people enjoy eating a meal of ham, black-eyed peas, and cabbage to signify health, wealth, and happiness. And we all love fireworks!
Actually, fireworks are probably the one tradition Americans share with cultures around the world on New Year’s Eve. There are so many different ways people from other countries celebrate the new year, and not everyone’s New Year begins on January 1st!
(No matter where people live, the New Year symbolizes new beginnings and dreams coming true.)
For instance, most people are aware that the Chinese New Year, centered around the lunar calendar, is celebrated anywhere between late January and the third week of February. Similarly, many Indian provinces celebrate their New Year in April and Muslims traditionally celebrate theirs on the first day of Muharram, which falls in August in 2019. Ethiopians actually have 13 months in their calendar, meaning they traditionally celebrate the New Year in September.
New Year’s traditions range from deep cleaning everything including homes, cars, and gardens, like in Sri Lanka, Ireland, and Puerto Rico. In Spain (and now in many Central and South American countries) it is a tradition to stuff 12 grapes in your mouth at once as the clock strikes midnight. Each grape represents a wish for the New Year, and if you can get all of them to fit, then all your wishes will come true.
In some South American countries such as Ecuador and Brazil, it’s common to burn effigies of public figures who have done wrong or life-sized dolls with masks that represent bad events from the past year. It’s also common in some Central and South American countries (and Thailand, too!) to throw buckets of water out of windows on New Year’s Eve to symbolically clean out the old year.
Some traditions that are even stranger for Americans come from Europe. In Denmark it is common to collect dishes throughout the year so they can be shattered by the front door on New Year’s Eve - the more broken plates, the more friends one will have that year. As the clock strikes midnight for the Danish, they leap from the tops of chairs to welcome the New Year.
In Germany, people melt lead and drop it into cold water to see what shape it takes to predict the future. Estonians eat anywhere from 7, 9, or 12 meals on New Year’s Eve! These are lucky numbers in Estonia, and people are encouraged to begin the New Year a little heavier than before. In Scotland and England, there is a tradition that the first person to cross the threshold of a home in the New Year should be a tall, dark-haired man bringing a gift for good luck.
These are just the bare-bones of New Year’s Eve traditions. There are literally so many in all the different regions of the world that to write an article about all of them would take a lifetime! We just thought it would be nice for you guys to see all the different ways people celebrate around the world - maybe there’s room for one or two more traditions in your family this year? (I wouldn’t mind eating 12 meals in one day…)
What’s your favorite NYE tradition? Leave your answer in the comments below!