You have probably grown up with some new year traditions that play a huge part in celebrating the new year. But, have you ever welcomed the new year in a country different from yours and thought, “So, this is how they celebrate their new year?”. Well, wherever you plan to welcome the coming year, there are new year traditions that have become part of your new year event. And these practices make the New Year celebration more fun, exciting, and meaningful.
The entire world celebrates the new year. Yet, every country has different ways to celebrate it. They have different beliefs, cultures, and traditions associating with the welcoming of the new year. So, how do other cultures celebrate this meaningful calendar-change event? Here are some unusual new year traditions around the world that you must know.
Popular New Year Traditions In Asian Countries
Practices for happiness, prosperity, and good fortune are mainly the focus of most new year traditions in many Asian countries. In their traditions and beliefs, they also try to ward off bad luck and evil spirits to start the new season with positive energy. It is no surprise that one of the most common traditions is to celebrate this day with their loved ones. Yet, since most Asian countries follow the lunar or solar calendar, they rarely celebrate the new year on the 1st of January. Depending on their individual traditions, their new year festivities take place in late January, mid-February, March, and April.
Curious about what are the unusual and bizarre new year traditions of some countries? We got you! Here are some of the interesting cultures and beliefs about the new year in some parts of Asia!
In Armenia, the New Year celebration begins on the night of the 31st of December, and the celebration lasts a whole week! When the clock hits midnight, family members congratulate each other and drink wine or champagne. Then, people visit each other’s houses throughout the week. This tradition does have a special order一the visit begins with the most honorable people such as the oldest people in the family linage. However, it is necessary to visit as many relatives and friends as possible so you wouldn’t offend anyone.
Another interesting new year tradition is that Armenian mothers prepare special wheat bread. They even put a coin or something alike in the bread, then they divide it into several parts. They said a good year is waiting for the one who could find the coin in his piece of bread.
People in China also observe the 1st January New Year and declare it as a public holiday. However, their new year celebration is according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is China’s most important festival. Some of their new year traditions include putting up decorations and eating reunion dinner with family on New Year’s eve. Lighting up firecrackers and fireworks and giving red packets (ang baos) are part of their festive activities.
Many Chinese people paint their front door red as a symbol of happiness and good fortune. Another bizarre activity some Chinese do is they choose to hide their knives so that nobody cuts them. They thought that cutting could impact the luck of the entire family for the upcoming year.
In India, they have a Balinese New Year or Nyepi. Balinese worshippers parade through the streets with demonic effigies (ogah-ogahs) and whip one another with fiery coconut husks to chase away evil spirits. During the Nyepi, the whole country shuts down. The government forbids lights, cars, and work, and the citizens spend the day in silence to focus on self-reflection. They believed that this quiet tricks the spirits to think everyone left the island, hoping that the demons will, too.
One of the famous Japanese new year traditions is The Watched Night Bell in Tokyo. Buddhist temples across the country welcome the new year by ringing their bells 108 times. Every ring represents each human sin in Buddhist relief. They believe the act cleanses them from the previous year’s sins. It is also their tradition to eat buckwheat noodles called Toshikoshi soba on New Year’s Eve.
Koreans also celebrate their new year according to the lunar calendar. During the first day, they dress up in their traditional clothing, hanbok. After that, they gather for charye一a ritual prayer to their ancestors for peace and good health. They eat the eumbok, a ritual food, to pass their ancestors’ hopes and blessings on to them. The younger generations pay respect to the elderly with a sebae (bow) to receive a sebaedon or new year’s money.
The Burmese New Year is based on the Fixed Zodiac system. Hence, it falls on or around April 16. They celebrate the new year with a traditional three day New Year Festival called Maha Thingyan, which means big change. It involves splashing water on buildings, temples, and one another to welcome the coming year with a purified soul. The festival lasts for three days.
In the Philippines, circles played a huge part in the new year celebration. Filipinos wear polka dots and prepare twelve round fruits for prosperity in the upcoming year. Other new year traditions include jumping high at exactly midnight (this is for short people who want to grow taller!) and making loud noises! Eating pancit and sticky rice cakes became part of the tradition too! They believed that these practices would bring them a long life and more prosperity.
In Moscow, Russians welcome the coming year by heading to Red Square to experience the popular and public-friendly New Year’s Eve party. Thousands gather there every year一with sparkling wine or vodka in hand一to watch fireworks at St. Basil’s Cathedral. The host for New Year celebrations or many eateries in Russia may set up a zakuska table for the guest or a table full of traditional Russian food.
Additionally, it is also their tradition to write a wish, burn it, and then throw it into a champagne glass. Then, they must drink it before 12:01 am.
One of the famous new year traditions in Siberia is to plant new year tree trunks underneath frozen lakes or rivers. This Siberian New Year Tree, also known as yolka, signifies the coming of Father Frost. But its planting symbolizes starting over. Jumping into the frozen lake challenge becomes another addition to the year-end festivities.
In Singapore, they release wishing spheres containing people’s hope for the new year onto the Singapore River. People from all over the world take part by writing wishes on white spheres. Aside from that, many people attend the biggest countdown party in Marina Bay Sands! It is packed with various activities from a giant carnival, art markets, a visual projection showcase, and a grand fireworks showcase at midnight!
In Thailand, they celebrate the January New Year’s celebration by exchanging gifts with friends and family members. Thai people also celebrate Songkran, or the Thai New Year, which came from the Sanskrit word meaning to pass and move into. The first day transforms Thailand into a giant water fight because they believe that water washes away bad luck. Hence, throwing water is a sign of well-wishing and respect.
Tibetans held the Losar Festival to celebrate their New Year. On the Losar Eve, they prepare guthuk一a special dumpling soup, with symbolic ingredients such as chilies, rice, and coal. After getting their fill, they run around their villages with firecrackers and straw torches to scare off ghosts and demons.
Famous New Year Traditions in Europe
All countries around the world have their ways to celebrate the coming year. These practices might be too unique or peculiar to us, yet these traditions are important to their new year celebrations. In some European countries, they have various practices that we might find a bit peculiar. However, the aim of doing these practices are still similar to the rest of the world. Well, who doesn’t want to have a good year filled with blessings and good things?
Discover fascinating new year traditions in some European countries by continuing to check our list!
In Austria, one of their popular new year traditions is giving lucky charms to their family and friends. Some famous charms include a four-leaf clover, horseshoe, chimney sweep, fly agaric, or a pig. They also made these charms edible and made of chocolate or marzipan. They give these items to bring luck, good health, and wealth.
Meanwhile, in Belarus, unmarried women play games to determine which of them will marry in the coming year as a new year tradition. One game relies on a rooster to choose from piles of corn in front of the women. Then, whoever the pile belongs to will be the first to wed.
The New Year’s Eve in Belgium is called Sint Sylvester Vooranvond or Saint Sylvester Eve. At midnight, everyone kisses, exchanges good luck greetings, and drinks toast to absent relatives and friends. Most cities, cafes, and restaurants are crowded with people who bid farewell to the Old Year. On 1st January, Belgian children read New Year’s letters to their parents or godparents. They made these cards at school and decorated them with traditional motifs of cherubs, angels, roses, and ribbons.
A new year tradition in the Czech Republic is eating pork along with a dish of čočka topped with a fried egg. The Czechs believe that doing this symbolizes prosperity (and a pretty excellent cure for a hangover, too!). And they believe that it is possible to predict what the coming year has in store by cutting an apple in half. The shape of the seeds inside will determine the future. If the seeds are in a star shape, it means that health, happiness, and unity will come next year. On the other hand, if the shape is like a four-pointed cross, it means bad luck will come to someone’s table.
In Denmark, one of their interesting new year traditions is smashing plates on their neighbor’s doorstep. It determines the luck of your neighbor for the coming year. So, the more broken crockery at their door, the better the luck coming.
Aside from good luck for the upcoming year, many people also want to have a good relationship with their special someone. In England, one of their new year traditions is kissing at midnight. This custom traditionally stems back to old English and German folklore. They believed that a midnight kiss would set the tone of your relationship for the next year.
In Estonia, they aim to eat seven, nine, or twelve meals on New Year’s Eve. These numbers are considered the most auspicious. Hence, the more they eat, the more plentiful food will come in the next year. Some popular dishes include sauerkraut and marzipan for dessert.
Among the Finnish, the practice of casting tin is a popular new year tradition. It involves melting down the tin before pouring it into a bucket of cold water. Once the tin has turned solid again, the shadow it cast is used as the basis of predictions for the year ahead.
In France, one of the fascinating new year customs is eating a stack of crepes. It symbolizes prosperity in the harvest. Also, the tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe as the clock strikes midnight is popular in the country.
On the other hand, many Germans welcome the new year by eating a donut filled with jam or liquor called Pfannkuchen. Yet, as a practical joke, they give some donuts with different filling, such as mustard. If you eat one of these donuts with the wrong filling, it is seen as bad luck.
In Greece, many people traditionally hung from the front door of a house on New Year’s Eve. This custom is a symbol of rebirth for the coming year. Then, parents wake their children the next morning by tapping them on the head with the onion.
In Hungary, on New Year’s Eve, Budapest’s Time Wheel runs out. Then, it is mechanically rotated so that the sand can run through it for another year. Also, the country includes eating meals containing roast pork because they thought pigs bring good luck. They don’t eat chicken as birds scratch away success, or fish since they will swim away with good fortune.
In Iceland, many peculiar traditions take place on New Year’s Eve. It involves cows being able to talk, seals taking human form, the dead rising from their graves, and elves moving houses.
In Ireland, some single women place mistletoe under their pillows, hoping that the upcoming year will bring them a husband. One of the interesting new year traditions in the country is people banging bread against the wall to drive away evil spirits. Aside from that, it invites good spirits in before the start of the new year.
One of the interesting new year traditions for most Italians is wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve. The locals believe that it will bring love, prosperity, and good luck. Meanwhile, in Venice, people gather in St. Mark’s Square to see the new year with a mass kissing session. It is an effective way to create some spark and fireworks for the new year!
January is a very festive month for Macedonians! So aside from celebrating the New Year’s Eve on 31st December, they celebrate a second New Year’s Eve on 14th January. Family and friends gather together, eating some delicious food, and dancing to some popular music. The children also receive presents from relatives一lucky things.
In the Netherlands, one of their new year traditions includes eating deep-fried dough balls or oliebollen. It is also their tradition to purge the old and welcome the new year by burning the Christmas trees to bonfires. People also watch fireworks and dive into the North Sea, lakes, or canals.
There are some of the peculiar new year traditions in Portugal. These practices include taking a cold dive in the ocean on the first day of January and kissing a loved one at exactly midnight. Also, locals carry money in hand at midnight to bring money throughout the year. In northern parts of the country, children go door-to-door singing carols or Janeiro. It is said to bring good luck then they are given coins and treats.
In Romania, the new year traditions are colorful and cheerful. These practices are a mix of pre-Christian rituals, folklore, costumes, and thematic dances. These acts underline the predominant agrarian lifestyle from the past. One of the fascinating traditions is that Romanian farmers try to communicate with their animals on New Year’s Eve. If they are successful, they’ll have good luck for next year.
In Scotland, the people celebrate Hogmanay or the Scottish New Year’s Eve. Their new year involves the tradition of the first rooting一where the first person to cross the threshold into a house after midnight brings luck with them. The luckiest guest will receive a dark mate and a gift of coal. Locals also share shortbread and a whisky for a toast to welcome the new year. And take note, showing up empty-handed is not only very rude but also bad luck!
New Year’s Eve in Spain is known as Noche Vieja or Old Night. During this time, people stay at home until midnight to welcome the new year. One of their peculiar new year traditions involves eating doce uvas or twelve grapes in time with the twelve chimes of the clock at midnight. They believed it would bring good luck, prosperity in El Año Nuevo (the New Year).
In Switzerland, Swiss people celebrate Old Sylvester’s Day on 13th January following the Julian calendar. They go through the streets dressed in costumes and hats representing good and evil spirits. Aside from that, one of their fascinating new year traditions is dropping a dollop of cream on the floor. They believe that it will bring luck and a rich new year.
Moving on to the United Kingdom, their new year traditions include singing Auld Lang Syne. People in the UK and other English-speaking countries often join hands in a circle and sing this song. It was originally a poem written by Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Popular New Year Traditions in North and South America
Some people welcome the coming year by simply popping champagne and counting down until the clock strikes midnight. They are hoping for a new year filled with blessings to come. Many countries in the west commonly do these fun parties. Yet, there are unusual practices that make their celebrations different from the others! What are some of the peculiar new year traditions in other western countries? You can check out this list!
In Argentina, some of their unusual new year traditions involve the shredding of old documents and papers. It symbolizes leaving the past behind. Around noon, people throw the scraps of paper from their windows all over the city in a shower of confetti. It is also their tradition to wear pink underwear to attract love in the new year. Meanwhile, eating beans will help them keep their current job or find a better one.
In the Bahamas, locals welcome the New Year with the traditional Junkanoo Parade. It features traditional junkanoo dancing and music on islands from Grand Bahama to Abaco. Take note, the parade in Nassau is the biggest and considered the best. And during this time, the people dress in elaborate costumes they created for months. Then, the best costumes will win prizes.
The tradition of wearing yellow underwear on New Year’s for good luck originally started in Mexico. Yet in Bolivia, the people wait for midnight to put on bright yellow underwear. They believe that it will increase all their luck and fortune for the coming year.
Brazilians throw white flowers into the ocean as an offering to the Goddess of the Sea as part of their new year traditions. They do this hoping that she’ll grant their wishes for the next year. Also, people jump into the ocean at midnight and jump into seven waves for good luck. They say that you can make one wish in every wave.
In Canada, they have an unusual new year tradition known as the Polar Bear Swim. Peter Pantages started this event in 1920 in Vancouver when his friends jumped in the freezing waters of the English Bay. Now, it is held in other provinces like Toronto, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba. But why do they do that? Many participants say that it starts off their year right since the icy dip gives them an adrenaline rush. It clears their head一a cleansing for the mind and soul. This event became a fundraising activity where the people can pledge donations for a good cause.
In Chile, a tradition started when a family from Talca broke into a graveyard to see their deceased relative in the new year. Today, the mayor of the town opens the graveyard after mass so other people can do the same.
If you want to have a travel-filled year ahead, then you can try this strange new year tradition in Colombia. They carry a suitcase around with them on 31st December in the hope of having a year filled with travels.
In Ecuador, people welcome the new year by burning effigies of politicians, pop culture figures, and other icons of the year. They also bring some old photographs from the past years. It symbolizes cleansing the bad from the previous twelve months before the new year starts.
Mexico has various peculiar new year traditions. On New Year’s Eve, locals decorate their houses in different colors一each represents their hopes for the coming year. The color red is for love, yellow is for work, and green is for money.
Having a toast is part of every New Year’s tradition in many countries around the world. Yet, for Mexicans, they drop a gold ring into the glass to bring good fortune in love and money.
Since 1907, one of the prominent new year traditions in New York is the Ball Drop. Thousands of people gather in Times Square every New Year’s Eve to witness this momentous event. At 11:59 PM ET, the ball descends a specifically designed flagpole, then it rests at midnight. It signals the start of the coming year!
Since 1990, the people in Brasstown, North Carolina, have participated in the tradition of Possum Drop. It is a new year tradition where they lower a live opossum instead of a regular ball. Yet, in 2019, this tradition is officially over.
Many Panamanians are superstitious and have certain rituals they believe must be done before the new year. One of their bizarre new year traditions is the burning of the effigies of politicians and famous people. They believe that beating and setting these effigies on fire at the stroke of midnight will destroy the sins and evil spirits of the previous year. It is also a way for good fortune in the new year.
In Peru, they place three potatoes under a chair or sofa一one peeled, one half-peeled, and one unpeeled. At midnight, they choose one random potato, which will forecast the state of their next year’s finances. Also, in one Peruvian village, people end the year with a fistfight to settle their differences. After that, they wipe the slate clean for the new year.
In Puerto Rico, some people drop back into the breaking waves at midnight as part of their new year traditions. Water plays symbolic importance in Puerto Rican culture. And it involves people throwing pails of water out of their windows to chase away evil spirits.
In the Southern States, one of their unusual new year traditions is eating a stew made from black-eyed peas. They believe that eating these peas will bring prosperity for the new year.
In Turkey, it is a tradition to open their front door and sprinkle salt on the doorstep. The locals believe that it will bring peace and prosperity to their houses or businesses in the New Year. Also, in late December, it is their tradition to display (mostly on shop fronts!) lacy red knickers and skimpy red underwear. They also wear it at midnight on New Year’s Eve, believing it will bring luck for the entire year.
Well-Known New Year Traditions in Africa and Australia
The majority of African countries follow the Gregorian calendar. And most of their practices are the same as other countries一celebrating with fireworks and countdowns to midnight. You can find a lot of New Year’s Eve parties in most major African cities, as well as smaller ones too.
Meanwhile, Australians celebrate the coming year with a barbecue, grilling sausage, steak, and lamb. The younger crowds might spend the day at the beach or music festivals, like Space Ibizia in Sydney. Here are other interesting new year traditions from other countries.
In Kenya, they celebrate the new year with the Kilifi New Year. It is a house, alternative, and reggae music festival that takes place in the coastal town of Kilifi. The event lasts from December 30 to January 2 and is held on a 20-acre plot of land beneath 1,000-year-old baobab trees. They also burn a giant sculpture to welcome the new year and to symbolize new beginnings and the hope for a bright future.
In Cape Town, the country’s second-largest city, the locals hold a special festival. Groups sing and dance while wearing brightly colored clothes and face paint. And different parts of the city have their unique colors and clothes! On the other hand, the residents of Johannesburg welcome the new year by partying hard and throwing old furniture or appliances out of the window. It represents they’re saying, “Out with the old, and in with the new”.
Like the celebration in other African countries, Zimbabwe holds a Vic Falls Festival as part of their new year traditions. It is a three-day festival featuring Africa’s biggest names in music. This event includes fire breathers, traditional dancing, and the Carnival Train一which takes you to a secret rave in the bush. It is also a great opportunity to have an adventurous start to the year. Many people try to swim in the Devil’s Pool or bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge.
New Year, New Hope!
After the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas day, we’re looking forward to the New Year. This momentous event symbolizes new hope and a fresh start for many of us. We take this as a great opportunity to redeem ourselves or to start anew. As we welcome a new season, we hope for the best things to come to us一from our careers, relationships, finances, and life in general. Hence, many of us follow different new year traditions hoping that it will help us start the year right.
Although there’s nothing wrong with following these new year traditions, our hope must still be anchored in God. He is the author of the book of life, and he has better plans for us (Jeremiah 29: 11 – 13). He knows everything, even the things we couldn’t understand for now. So, as we welcome the new season, may we be reminded of His greatness and authority. Let’s put our hope in Him and look forward to his blessings for the new year.