New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Say cheers and take a virtual trip around the world to celebrate the new year!

Dec 29, 2019

(Photo by Luo Lei on Unsplash)

The new year marks a celebration to close old chapters and welcome new beginnings. Around the world, people join together with family and friends to ring in the new year with their own unique traditions.

Scotland

Head on over to Scotland for the new year to celebrate Hogmanay (the Scots name for the last day of the year). Possibly derived from Norse and Gaelic traditions, on Hogmanay, neighbors and friends visit each other’s homes to celebrate with gift giving. 

You’ll find all sorts of local traditions throughout the country on Hogmanay. The first-footing custom of Hogmanay means the first person to enter the home receives special gifts like cakes or whiskey. In Edinburgh, people gather for a huge street party full of music and dancing. Locals in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire of northeast Scotland celebrate with swinging balls of fire, attaching flammable rags to chicken wire and slinging them around, turning new years into a fire festival! 

Fireworks in Edinburgh (DiegoMariottini / Shutterstock.com)

Spain

The Spanish mark the new year by eating a grape for every chime of the bell at midnight. “The Twelve Grapes at Midnight” welcomes a new year of good luck and abundance. Of course, the night wouldn’t be complete without passing around a bottle of cava to go with it.

Grapes and champagne celebration (nito / Shutterstock.com)

New York City

In the famous Times Square of New York City, thousands gather in the chilly winter months to watch performers and await the famous ball drop. The tradition started over 100 years ago and comes from a 19th century maritime activity of dropping balls down poles in ports. 

In 1907, the Big Apple constructed a ball six feet in diameter covered in light bulbs and weighing 700 pounds! New York has continued the tradition ever since, and Americans across the country tune in every year to watch the ball drop on live television. 

Times Square (Simon Dux Media / Shutterstock.com)

Philippines

Head to the Philippines on new years, and you’ll come across lots of round shapes all over the place. That’s because, here, people traditionally celebrate the new year by displaying 12 round fruits and round coins to symbolize luck and prosperity. Some even wear polka dots in the hopes of extra good luck.

Twelve round fruits in the table (annika85 / Shutterstock.com)

Denmark

While visiting Denmark during the New Year, don’t be surprised if you start hearing dishes and plates crashing all over. But not to worry! The Danish like to throw old plates and glasses against the doors of their friends and family to keep bad spirits away. They may also jump from chairs to “jump into January”.

Festive fireworks in Copenhagen (Skreidzeleu / Shutterstock.com)

Japan

In Japan, they call the new year shogatsu or oshogatsu. Businesses close down for several days, and families get together to celebrate. Many hang ornaments made from pine and plum trees on the doorways of their homes. Millions of people also visit shrines and temples throughout the country. For dinner, kitchens serve up toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles) as a symbol for longevity in the coming year.

Colorful decorations on a door in Tokyo (Phuong D. Nguyen / Shutterstock.com)

Brazil

Many South American countries have a secret tradition hidden up their sleeve on new years… or well, in this case, under their pants. In places like Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, people celebrate the new year by wearing underwear of a certain color. Red undies bring good luck while yellow welcomes money in the year to come.

Fireworks over the water in Rio de Janeiro (hbpro / Shutterstock.com)

ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.