12 Crazy New Year’s Eve Traditions from Around the World
One thing I think we can all agree on is that 2020 was not the year we thought it would be. With anticipation of gaining clarity in the New Year through crystal clear 20/20 vision, or re-entering the growth and prosperity of the roaring 1920s, this year was not all it was chalked up to be. Needless to say, we could all use a little more luck going into 2021.
Fortunately, every culture has its own way of ringing in the New Year to start off on the right foot. So, whether you consider yourself superstitious or not, at least a few of these traditions from around the world are certainly worth a try—even if just for the fun of it.
12 New Year’s Eve Traditions From Around the World
1. Eat 12 Grapes
One of the more commonly known traditions originates from Spain where exactly 12 grapes must be eaten, one at each stroke of midnight. Each grape represents every month of the New Year, guaranteeing a lucky year, but only if you simultaneously ruminate on their significance. If you fail to carefully finish your grapes by the time the clock stops chiming, you’re in for trouble (or misfortune) in the New Year. The flavor of the grapes, sweet or sour, also predicts what the year will bring.
2. Have Hoppin’ John for New Years Day Dinner
Want to enjoy luck and peace for the rest of the New Year? Then make and enjoy this this dish made with black-eyed peas, pork, and rice on the first day of January. Hoppin’ John is often eaten with collard greens, resembling paper money, “golden” cornbread, and peas to represent coins. Some families are even said to increase the benefit of their Hoppin’ John by placing pennies underneath the dish or adding extra pork, which is thought to invite in even more luck. Be sure to check out Coach Cristina’s recipe for success with her homemade Hoppin’ John!
3. Eating Fish for Dinner
If you are looking to start the New Year off with something lighter than the southern comforts of a bowl of Hoppin’ John, a good alternative is fish. According to folklore, fish are considered good luck for the New Year as they only swim in one direction—forward.
Likewise, it is also suggested not to eat certain foods, like lobster or chicken, on New Year’s Eve to prevent bad luck for the year ahead. Lobster should be avoided since can move backwards, so eating it before the stroke of midnight could cause setbacks. Because chickens scratch backwards, chicken dishes are also avoided. If you don’t want your good luck to fly away, forgo other types of winged fowl as well.
4. Smash a Plate
In Denmark, breaking dishware on the doorsteps of friends and family is meant to bring good luck. According to this tradition, the more shards in front of your home the next day, the luckier (and more well-liked) you are.
If you don’t need any more of a mess to clean up, Denmark also has a tradition where people stand on their chairs and “leap” into January at midnight all in an effort to leap toward good luck (and banish bad spirits to boot).
5. Wear White
White has long been a color associated with new and fresh beginnings. In the 1970’s, Brazil began the New Year’s Eve tradition of wearing white for good luck and peace. Yet, these white outfits are not completely lacking in color. Part of this tradition is to also wear colorful underwear underneath. Yellow is believed to bring money and prosperity. Pink brings love. Red inspires passion. Blue brings harmony. Orange is correlated to professional success. Green asks for health, and purple is believed to bring hope or inspiration.
6. Bring a Suitcase
If you, like me, have missed being able to travel this year, here is a tradition worth considering. In Colombia, people run around the block as fast as they can with empty suitcases to “guarantee a year filled with adventure and travel.” The faster you go, the more you will be able travel.
7. Keep the Windows and Doors Open
This tradition comes from the Irish who open the back door of their house just before midnight to “let the old year out” and open the front door to “let the New Year in.” (Let’s hope this old year goes out as quickly and gently as possible!) It’s also a way to greet your neighbors and wish them a Happy New Year!
8. Throw Water out the Window
In Latin cultures, it is believed that dumping a bucket of water out the window signifies renewal and drives away evil spirits. This originally comes from Puerto Rico, where it is traditional to take a bucket through each room or area of the house to collect all the bad energies in the water and then throw it out the window in order to remove them from the house.
9. Buy a Lucky Charm
In Germany and Austria, there are different lucky symbols that you’d gift to friends and family to bring them good fortune in the New Year. These include pigs, clovers, horseshoes, and chimney sweeps. Each charm carries a different meaning, but all lucky charms are supposed to bring luck, wealth, and health. For instance, many cultures consider pigs lucky. This is because they hold a positive connotation associated with farming, livestock, prosperity, and wealth.
10. Round Fruits
Round shapes are considered the most auspicious as it is the shape that represents movement, transformation, and wealth. In the Philippines during New Year’s, 12 round fruits typically serve as a centerpiece—one to represent each month of the New Year. Filipinos believe that round is a symbol for prosperity and fortune, so the more round shapes you surround yourself with, the better.
11. First Footing
In Scotland, the “first-foot” or first person to enter the house after midnight should be a dark-haired male bearing gifts like coins, coal, bread, salt, and whiskey. This is thought to bring luck and prosperity into the house for the coming year. The tradition dates back to the Viking days when big, blond strangers at the door meant trouble, and in some places, first footing by a fair-haired male is still regarded as unlucky.
12. Kiss at Midnight
This is one of the most practiced New Year’s traditions. At the stroke of midnight, you’re supposed to kiss someone you love. This is a borrowed tradition from English and German folklore, which believes the first person you encounter will dictate the year’s destiny. This tradition is also a symbol that your affection and closeness with that person will last the whole year. So, if you don’t have that special someone next to you at the New Year, don’t worry, you can still grab a friend or family member and give them a tight hug.
Universally, we all like to welcome the New Year with hopeful celebrations. And whether you stay up to celebrate or like to hit the hay early (as I do), New Year’s is the holiday made for reflecting on our growth, accomplishments, and fortune, all while looking ahead to the promises of the future. With each New Year comes unpredictable challenges, memories, and adventures—big and small. Although this past year was not at all what we had in mind, it still came with lessons to be learned, opportunities to be seized, and moments to be cherished.
Nevertheless, despite all the good, I think it goes without saying we are probably all looking forward to changing the calendar once midnight strikes just a little (or maybe a lot) more this year.
However you choose to ring in the New Year, whether you’re typically superstition or not, we could all benefit from picking from the list to try to muster up a little bit of extra luck with these fun New Year’s Traditions. Or, at the very least, just have a little bit of fun as we start anew!