Even if you don’t live in America, you’re probably familiar with our New Year’s Eve traditions, being as how they’re played on TV stations across the globe and portrayed in countless movies. That being said, there are tons more celebrations out there that don’t involve kissing at midnight, watching a ball drop and staring at fireworks in awe. Here are a few New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world.
Image Via asterix611 [Flickr]
Bring Gifts to Neighbors
It’s always nice to get a gift from a neighbor, friend or family member, but in some countries, visitors bearing gifts are practically guaranteed on the first day of the year. The tradition is commonly known as First-Footing and while it’s practiced everywhere from Russia to Wales to parts of the U.S., it is most common in Scotland. While the gifts brought for the occasion are important as they represent the type of luck the recipient will receive, it is also important who brings the gift. Ideally, the first person to enter a home at this period will be a tall, dark man, as this will bring the most luck.
Swing a Fireball Above Your Head
Scotland’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are known as Hogmanay and the celebration is responsible for introducing the "Auld Lang Syne" song to the world. But the festivities vary from place to place and while some areas celebrate by singing and linking arms at the appropriate point in the song, other celebrations are much more dangerous.
In Stonehaven, locals make up balls of chicken wire filled with newspapers, sticks and rags that sometimes measure up to two feet wide. Each ball is attached to a chain or nonflammable rope about three feet long. At midnight, the balls are then set on fire and swung around the heads of their creators as other revelers watch the spectacle. Eventually, the fireballs are put out or thrown into the harbor. Despite the dangers, the event has drawn in many tourists and the small town now sees around 12,000 people standing in the city streets to watch the fire balls spin. If you want to see the action without risking life and limb, the celebration is now streamed on the internet.
Image Via MrPurple [Wikipedia]
If you just can’t get enough burning out of your New Year’s experience and you’ve already visited Stonehaven, then perhaps it’s time to purchase a ticket to Ecuador. That’s because on New Year’s Eve, locals line the streets with effigies of people who have made a negative impact on the last year, most commonly, unpopular politicians. Thousands of dummies are lit up at the stroke of midnight in an effort to prevent the negative events associate with those people from impacting the new year.
Image Via lowfill [Flickr]
Munch Some Grapes
In Mexico, Spain and a number of other Latin countries, it is popular tradition to make a wish and eat one grape for each bell that chimes the sound of midnight. That means you must be a really fast eater or you’re bound to be stuck with a dozen grapes in your mouth all at once. If you are able to swallow them all, then your dreams are said to come true.
This tradition is actually fairly new, starting in 1909 when grape growers in Alicante thought up the idea as a way to help get rid of some of their extensive grape surplus from the year’s harvest. It quickly took off though and now people across the globe think of grapes as a must have for New Year’s Eve. As quickly as the tradition swept through Latin cultures, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see Americans adopting the tradition in the future.
Wear Colored Panties
In many countries, including Spain, Italy, Bolivia, and a variety of other countries, it is also traditional to wear certain colors of underwear on New Year’s Eve in order to bring good luck in the next year. While red is the traditional color in Spain and Italy, colors vary from country to country. In Bolivia, red is for love and yellow is for money…presumably that means you’re in for both if you wear red and yellow polka dots.
Image Via PinkLens [Flickr]
Chase Away Devils
For many cultures, the New Year is a time to wash away the old year and prepare for good fortune in the upcoming year, but in Puerto Rico and the Philippines, it’s a time to chase away the demons that have been haunting you and your home.
Revelers honk car horns, blast boat whistles, bang drums and ring church bells all in an effort to chase away evil spirits and demons. In some areas of Puerto Rico, they also throw pails of water from the windows in order to chase away further evil.
In Puerto Rico, those that aren’t on land throwing water from their windows or making noise instead fall backwards into the ocean waves as the clock strikes midnight in an effort to bring in good luck for the upcoming year.
In the Philippines, it is tradition to wear clothes bearing circular patterns, as they should attract wealth, as will throwing coins in the air at midnight and serving circular fruits with dinner. Those who wish to be taller should jump as the clock turns to twelve.
Eat a Ton
While many cultures have a traditional feast on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, Estonians take it to a whole new level. It is considered good luck to eat seven, nine, even twelve times on New Year’s Eve and for each meal eaten, the diner is said to gain the strength of that many men in the following year. It’s not totally gluttonous though. The meals are never supposed to be finished entirely, as the leftovers are to be provided for the spirits who visit that night.
Image Via Raasiel [Flickr]
Predict the Future
Many people like to set goals for the upcoming year, but some people take it a step further and actually try to predict what the year will bring. In Germany, fortunes are sometimes told by dropping molten lead into water and then evaluating the shapes of the drops.
In Romania, fortune tellers take to peeling, salting and reading the skins of 12 onions. It is said that someone who is particularly good at this skill can evaluate the weather of the upcoming year.
Image Via OnTheBorderLand [Flickr]
Excessively Clean and Cook, Then Relax
In Japan, New Year’s Day is one of the biggest holidays of the year, so locals spend the majority of the day cleaning their home to prepare for the first day of the year. They then have the largest feast of the year, featuring noodles that represent the crossing over from one year to the next. Traditionally, New Year's Eve would require extensive cooking, not only to prepare the meal for that night, but also three days worth of non-perishable dishes, as the local shops would be closed. But this tradition is less common now that refrigeration is widely available and more shops are open in the days following the holiday.
At midnight, many people visit a local Buddhist temple, where monks ring bells 108 times, representing the different defilements people have in their head. The ringing of the bells is meant as a means of repentance for these naughty thoughts.
Finally, on New Year’s Day, residents are expected to rest and no work is to be done that day. Children often receive small gifts of money in celebration and hard working adults get the day off from the office –it’s a win/win.
Copy Times Square
While most of China doesn’t celebrate New Year’s Eve because locals still base their holidays on the Lunar calendar, Hong Kong is a notable exception. What makes their celebration different from the rest of the world’s is their replica of the Time’s Square ball dropping ceremony in the Times Square shopping mall. While it might not be as big of a deal as the original event, it’s certain to have less crowds and will probably be at least a little warmer than the celebration in New York.
Image Via ellesil [Flickr]
Do any of you celebrate less common New Year’s Eve traditions? What was the strangest holiday tradition you ever witnessed? I want to start doing the grape thing myself, although it certainly sounds like a challenge –especially if I still want my New Year’s kiss and a sip of champagne when the clock finishes chiming.
Sources: Wikipedia #1, #2, #3, Mental Floss #1, #2, Infoplease