New Year’s Day Traditions from Around the World
By Maria Healey, MariaHealey.com
On December 31st, all across the world, humans celebrate the tradition of New Year’s Eve as we embark on a new year with optimistic goals and a universal wish for good luck in the coming months. January 1st marks the beginning of endless possibilities and New Year’s Day traditions vary widely by country and region. Many traditions around the world include rituals intended to bring good luck or prosperity. Use this new year to incorporate some of these fun and interesting New Year’s Day traditions, no matter what part of the world you live in or you’re from.
Lucky Foods for the New Year
Many cultures around the world focus their New Year’s celebration around ring-shaped food. Items such as donuts, grapes and pretzels in a round shape symbolize coming full circle and are considered lucky. Some other ways that countries celebrate the New Year with food include:
- Spain: Spaniards eat 12 grapes at midnight, one for each of the months.
- India & Pakistan: Rice is eaten at New Year’s to bring prosperity.
- Denmark: The ring-shaped food in Denmark is called a kransekage, meaning wreath, and it is comprised of a tower of marzipan doughnuts.
- Philippines: 12 round fruits are considered lucky.
- Holland: While most cultures ring in the New Year with a glass of champagne, in Holland, they toast with mulled wine.
- Chile: Chileans eat three spoonfuls of plain lentils instead, to bring prosperity, abundance, and economic success for the New Year.
- Southern US: Superstitious Southerners celebrate the New Year with a recipe of Louisiana Hoppin’ John which includes black eyed peas, ham, and cornbread.
- Sweden & Norway: A dessert of rice pudding is served up and the lucky one to find the almond hidden inside their dish wins a prize
- Japan: Eating soba noodles is considered to bring good fortune for the New Year in Japanese culture.
- France: The French feast on foie gras, oysters, lobster, and escargot for le réveillon at midnight as a New Year’s Eve tradition.
Rituals for the New Year
Food isn’t the only symbolic item for New Year’s traditions around the world. Many cultures kiss a loved one at midnight, make resolutions or make a toast to ring in the New Year.
New Year’s traditions for luck:
- Colombia: At midnight, Colombians take an empty suitcase on a walk around the neighborhood.
- Philippines: Windows and doors are cracked open at midnight to let in good luck.
- Puerto Rico: Some Puerto Ricans dump a bucket of water outside the windows of their house to keep away evil spirits.
- China: Many people in Asian cultures set off firecrackers at midnight to also scare off evil spirits.
- Italy: Loud church bells ring at the stroke of midnight to keep evil spirits away.
- Switzerland: The Swiss make noise to ring in the New Year by banging loud drums that ward off evil spirits.
- Ireland: The Irish bash bread on the walls of their home to chase out bad luck at the end of the year.
- Greece: Greeks hang a large onion bulb on their door for better health and good luck in the new year.
New Year’s traditions for prosperity:
- Colombia: Colombians place three potatoes under their beds on New Year’s Eve and at midnight they pick one: a peeled potato suggests financial problems, an unpeeled potato promises abundance, and a half-peeled potato falls in the middle.
- Latin America: Your underwear color for New Year’s Eve indicates what your wish for the New Year is; red is love, white is peace and yellow or green symbolize wealth.
- Russia: Russians celebrate the New Year by writing down a wish, burning it and then placing the ashes in a glass of champagne to drink before midnight.
- England: Wassail is a special punch that’s consumed for good health in the new year.
- Scotland: Scots toast with a “hot pint” similar to Wassail for a new year full of prosperity.
- India & Pakistan: Rice is eaten as a New Year’s celebratory food in hopes of prosperity.
Celebrations for the New Year
New Year’s traditions call for celebration in most parts of the world, whether it’s toasting champagne or kissing a loved one or setting off fireworks at midnight. Some additional celebrations include:
- France: After the traditional New Year’s feast and church service, many participate in a vineyard processional by torchlight to kick off the grape harvest season.
- Denmark: The Danish literally jump into the New Year by “jumping” into January at the stroke of midnight.
- Brazil: A traditional New Year’s celebration in Brazil involves everyone wearing white in order to participate in the festivities properly.
- Australia: Much like in the US, Australians also celebrate New Year’s Eve traditions with parties, music, and fireworks.
- Scotland: Scots celebrate the New Year by swinging fiery balls (made of rags, twigs, wire and rope) throughout the village parade.
New Year’s traditions around the world might look quite different from how you celebrate them where you are. But whether you opt for lucky food or rituals or celebrations or all three, make this New Year one to remember!