It’s that time of year again when everyone is scrambling to make plans with friends and family for New Year’s. You probably already have a pretty good idea of some of the traditions you will follow this year, but have you ever wondered what they do in different countries around the world? We all know everyone huddles around the TV to watch the ball drop in Times Square at midnight in America, but what do they do in France? Kenya? China?
Here’s a list of 7 New Year’s traditions from around the world that you might want to include at your next gathering. Some of them are pretty fun and interesting. It’s an easy way to open yourself up to new and different cultures you may not be familiar with. Remember, these aren’t laws, so not everyone from these countries follows these traditions, but they are prevalent enough to mention.
In Türkiye, New Year’s Eve as a festive holiday is a recent tradition after the government made it an official holiday in 1935. That hasn’t stopped them from creating their own traditions associated with the holiday. Some are similar to other countries’ traditions, while others are unlike anything you’re familiar with.
One uncommon tradition is the smashing and gifting of pomegranates. Pomegranates are extremely popular in that region of the world, and they make their way into New Year’s traditions in Türkiye too. It’s said that you should smash a pomegranate in front of your home for good luck or gift one to friends and family.
They also say that you should open a lock or turn on a faucet to symbolize good fortune and abundance in the year ahead. In addition to this, they also have a large feast, usually with a chicken or turkey, like in other countries.
Eating twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve is a fairly common tradition in Spain and many other Hispanic countries. People say you are supposed to eat one during each bell toll at midnight to bring in the New Year.
Besides eating grapes, the Spanish will also be dancing and partying in city squares on New Year’s Eve or at home well into the morning. Some people will make a toast with sparkling Spanish wine called cava. It’s not uncommon for people to put something gold inside to boost good fortune or even add a strawberry to increase their chance of finding true love.
Besides fireworks, Mexico has a ton of New Year’s traditions based on letting out the old and bringing in the new. Some families will leave a bag of lentils outside the front door on New Year’s Eve to bring good fortune to the family in the year to come.
We all think about what shirt or dress we’re going to wear, but in Mexico, you better think about your underwear too! Red underwear is supposed to bring you love, yellow underwear will bring you lots of money, and white underwear signifies peace and hope for the year to come.
It’s also common in Oaxaca to eat buñuelos, fried dough covered in cinnamon with syrup or honey. They often come served on a ceramic dish, and it’s customary to smash the dish when you’re finished. The breaking of the dish is symbolic and represents your desire to break bad past habits.
With lots of different cultures, Thailand has a few different New Year holidays that people celebrate. Traditional Thai culture celebrates Songkran, or the traditional New Year’s holiday, in April. Chinese New Year and January New Year are also very popular, but Songkran has the most interesting traditions.
The holiday begins on the 13th of April and lasts for five days. During this time, people visit temples and offer food to Buddhist monks, and will pour water on Buddha statues or the young and elderly. The water is meant to symbolize the washing of sins and bad fortune.
Songkran is also famous for its water festival too. Streets are closed, and citizens will have large water fights with water guns, balloons, and more. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the water war, from the young to the
Between Carnival and New Year’s Eve, Brazil sure knows how to throw a party. Since New Year’s in Brazil marks the start of summer, everyone is itching to get out and enjoy the warm weather and beaches. In fact, a lot of the traditions surrounding Brazillian New Year’s focus on the beach and the ocean deity, Lemanjá.
People will give Lemanjá white flowers and other objects as offerings for protection from horrid storms in the coming year. At the same time, others will take to the waters and jump seven waves to purify themselves and gain strength for the year to come. It’s important to make a wish after each wave or even thank Lemanjá for something that happened to you in the previous year.
Russian New Year’s traditions incorporate a similar theme to Christmas in America. On the 31st, a legendary childhood figure named Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) makes presents magically appear beneath the tree in everyone’s home for well-behaved children. He even rides a sleigh like Santa Claus.
Besides Ded Moroz, Russians also make a New Year’s wish with champagne and a burning piece of paper. The proper way to do it is to pop the champagne, fill your glass, write down your wish, light your paper on fire, dunk it in the glass, and drink the champagne. Did we mention you have to do this all within 12 seconds as the clocks ring to signify the New Year has begun?
Finns celebrate New Year’s in different ways. Some host parties at home, others go to restaurants, and some hit the clubs. No matter where you are, fireworks are bound to be heard, alcohol will be drunk, and food will be eaten.
Some of the more traditional aspects of a Finnish New Year’s include predicting fortunes from molten tin. Families will melt miniature tin horses and pour the molten tin into a bucket of water, where the drops will solidify into odd shapes and ways. The droplets are fished out, and your fortune is then read to you – always good!
It seems no matter where you are in the world, almost every culture will have its own way of celebrating the new year and the clock striking midnight. Almost every culture wishes the new year in with thoughts of love, good fortune, and good health to come while leaving any bad things that may have happened in the year that’s now behind them. Hopefully, you’ll think about other cultures this New Year’s as you celebrate yours and maybe even try a new tradition. Who knows, maybe it will become your own yearly tradition too!