New Year’s Traditions From Around the World

Traditions to bring good luck for the New Year are as old as the celebrations and come from all corners of the world.

Many cultures count a tall, dark and handsome man crossing the threshold as a sign of good luck, but if the first person to enter the house is a red headed woman…the year is sure to be stressful.

Others involve housecleaning…brushing the bad luck of the past year out with the dust. Holding a piece of silver or gold as the New Year begins is said to increase the chances of prosperity in the coming year…some place a silver coin over the doorway or a penny on the windowsill.

An Irish tradition involves banging on the door and walls with Christmas bread to chase the bad luck out and bring good spirits to the household with the promise of bread enough in the New Year.

The youngest boy in the household lighting a candle at dusk to burn through the night until morning light is another Celtic tradition – that may be a citified version of lighting bonfires or a carryover of the Samhain tradition of lighting tapers in the windows to chase the evil spirits.

In the Philippines, children jump up and down at midnight to make sure they will grow tall. In Asia, sunrise celebrations and honoring of the ancestors and elders brings luck.

Then there are the foods! Chiacchiere, or honey drenched balls of fried dough, always ensure a sweet year in Italy. Grapes, one for each month, make for a lucky year in Spain and many Latin countries. Eating pork, all kinds of greens, cabbage, sauerkraut, the Southern U.S. tradition of black-eyed peas or anything that forms a circle – such as donuts or pretzels – make for good fortune in the coming year. In Korea, bowing to the elders and deokguk, Rice Cake Soup, are part of the sun rise celebrations.

If you choose to be a little cultural this year and celebrate New Years in a different way, here are a couple of traditions that take place all over the world on the 31st of December.

South America – Residents all wear brightly colored underpants. Those who wear red are hoping for love in the New Year. Those who choose to wear yellow are wishing for money.

Denmark – Many Danish leap off chairs at midnight, hoping to ban all bad spirits in the New Year. They also have a very loud and destructive way of celebrating the New Year – they break dishes. People throw their old dishes on their friends’ doors on New Years and the one with the most dishes outside their door usually has the most friends.

Philippines – It is a tradition in the Philippines that Filipinos focus on all round things. They consume round fruits such as grapes and wear clothing with round shapes such as polka dots. The round shape reminds and celebrates the roundness of coins, as they hope for prosperity in the New Year.

Spain – At midnight, Spaniards consume 12 grapes and try to consume all of them by the time the clock stops chiming.

Belarus – In Belarus, unmarried women compete at games of skill to determine who will get married first in the New Year. One game involves setting piles of corn and a rooster before each of the single ladies. Whichever pile the bird approaches first is believed to be the one who is to be married first.

Germany and Austria – Germans and Austrians pour lead as a tradition which includes using molten lead like tea leaves. The lead pieces are poured into a bowl filled with water, leading the lead to form shapes which predict what is going to happen in the New Year. If the lead forms a ball it means good luck, if it looks like an anchor it means you will need help in the New Year and if it’s a cross it means death.

Ecuador – Usually when you burn someone’s picture it means a bad break up. However in Ecuador, the fiesta includes all the locals gathering together with pictures that represent something you do not want in the New Year from the last year and burning it.

Chile – In the city of Talca in Chili, people participate in a mass on New Year’s Eve and then they all go visit the graveyard to set up their chairs and wait for the year to arrive with the dead.

Puerto Rico – When it’s New Year’s Eve in Puerto Rico they throw buckets of water out of the window to “clean” the old year out. They also clean their homes and decorate them as it is supposed to symbolize the “cleaning” of the spirit.

These ancient holiday traditions are as varied as the lands where they are from, but they all have one thing in common: sharing warm personal wishes with friends and family for much happiness, health and prosperity in the New Year.