Did you know that there are hundreds of quirky New Year’s traditions that are carried out every New Year’s Eve around the world? A few years ago, some friends and I decided to adopt a handful of quirky International New Year’s traditions.
Now, every year, promptly at midnight we perform each of the rituals in order. Some of them are a little strange, as you can imagine, so if you were to walk into the room at midnight, you’d wonder if we’d all lost our minds.
While we might think these New Year’s traditions are a bit out there, many people take them very seriously. Not performing these rituals would be akin to breaking a mirror or crossing under a ladder.
You might have 10 years bad luck if you don’t participate! In the United States, we have a few traditions like toasting with Champagne and giving a kiss at midnight, dropping the ball in Times Square and setting off fireworks, but nothing compares to these quirky New Year’s traditions.
Why not embrace the traditions and try a few yourself, whether you’re celebrating at home or in one of the fun New Year’s Eve destinations? It’s actually a really fun way to celebrate when the clock strikes midnight. Clink your Champagne glasses with friends, get your midnight kiss, then do a few of these fun and quirky traditions.
New Year’s Eve Traditions
1. The Twelve Grapes
In Spain, an age-old tradition involves eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight — one grape for every strike of the bell. If you manage to eat all of the grapes, you’ll have a prosperous year.
In Peru, they take this a step further by eating the grapes under the table and reciting the months of the year. If any grapes are dropped on the ground, it’s bad luck.
2. Throwing Water
In Puerto Rico, it’s a custom to throw a bucket or a glass of water out the window at midnight to clear out the old year and drive away evil spirits.
The water is used to signify all the tears and strife of the year being tossed out so it’s not brought into the new year.
3. Polar Bear Plunge
The plunge into icy water on New Year’s Day is a tradition that’s been adopted in many U.S. cities, but it has a long history in Canada, UK and The Netherlands, where thousands join the ranks of people crazy enough to risk hypothermia for the plunge.
4. Colorful Underwear
In Brazil, it’s tradition to wear brightly colored underwear to the New Year’s Eve celebration to bring about good luck. Red and yellow bring love and money. Gold brings wealth. White brings peace.
In Rio de Janiero, many people wear all white to the celebration.
5. Eating for Strength
In Estonia, the traditional activity on New Year’s Eve is eating. Locals eat seven meals throughout the night and each one gives added strength for the new year.
If you’re a foodie, this seems like the place to be! Better yet, these days the Estonians have largely replaced the meals they used to eat with alcohol.
6. Burning Dolls
In Colombia and other parts of South America, straw dolls called “old year dolls” are burned at midnight as a way of leaving behind the bad from the previous year.
Colombians also carry around empty suitcases on New Years Eve, hoping for a travel-filled year.
7. Jumping Off Chairs
In Copenhagen, Denmark, it is a tradition to jump off a chair at the stroke of midnight. Everyone gets up on a chair and at midnight everyone jumps off together, signifying a leap into the new year and the leaving behind of evil spirits.
8. Talking Animals
Romanians have a tradition where they wait to see if the farm animals talk on New Year’s Day. If they do, it’s bad luck, so everyone is relieved when the animals don’t break out in a speech.
9. 108 Chimes
At Japan‘s Buddhist temples, a bell will chime 108 times in a ceremony called Joya no Kane. The tradition states that for each bell chime, one of the evils suffered from the previous year is absolved.
Some people also wear a costume of the next year’s zodiac animal (which in 2015 is a sheep) to the temple on New Year’s Eve.
10. Round Shapes
In the Philippines, round shapes are said to bring prosperity, so many people display bowls of round fruits on their tables, eat round foods at midnight and wear clothing with round shapes, like polka dots.
11. Breaking Plates
In Denmark, one tradition is to break plates and dishes on the doorsteps of your friends. The bigger the pile of broken dishes on your doorstep, the better, as it shows how many loyal friends you have.
12. Smoldering Champagne
On New Year’s Eve in Russia, it’s a tradition to write your new year wish on a piece of paper, burn it and dump the smoldering ashes into your glass of Champagne, which you then gulp down at midnight.
13. Black Eyed Peas
The tradition of eating black-eyed peas may have begun as far back as ancient Egypt as a way of showing humility and gaining favor from the gods in the new year.
The tradition was adopted in the South following the Civil War when all the slaves had to eat were black-eyed peas and pork. As the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, eating black-eyed peas on New Years became a symbol of freedom and now is an omen for luck and prosperity.
Perhaps your own New Year’s Eve celebration needs a little sprucing up. You should consider making one of these, or one of the many dozens of traditions that are celebrated around the world, a tradition of your own.
Do you have a quirky tradition you carry out every year? Share it in the comments below. The weirder the better!
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries.
5 thoughts on “13 Quirky New Year’s Traditions Worldwide”
I experienced “burning the old man” in Ecuador back in 2008. The men would dress up in drag and pretend to be widows asking for donations. Sometimes they’d even string a rope across the street and wouldn’t allow passage without a donation!
Oh my gosh! That’s awesome. I guess that’s one way to make money.
We will be in Tokyo this year for New Year! I’ll keep my eyes peeled for some people dressed as sheep!
We have cabbage on New Years. I’m not sure if it’s a German thing but that’s what my grandma made every New Years. My friends bury money in hopes it will grow.