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New Year Celebrations Across the Planet

Traditions for welcoming the new year.

By:  |  December 30, 2020  |    714 Words

(Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

It’s New Year – the end of the old year, and the start of a new one. On January 1, Americans bring in a new year with fresh hopes and dreams. In the United States, people celebrate with fireworks, family meals, and counting down the time to the next year. What are some traditions celebrated to begin a new year around the world?

English Speakers

Probably the most common tradition celebrated in various English-speaking countries is singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight. This Scottish folk song is about remembering old times and is an ode to long-standing friendships.



Revellers watch the fireworks on 1st January 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Phil Clarke Hill/In Pictures via Getty Images)

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, celebrators at the nation’s beaches join in the tradition of jumping over seven waves. Participators must face the ocean’s waves head-on and then make a wish for each wave they jump over. It is also customary to wear white on the last day of the year.


Some people might get upset to have friends and neighbors showing up and smashing plates on their front doors, but in Denmark, it is supposed to bring good luck when done on New Year’s Eve at midnight. The more smashed plates at someone’s door, the better. On December 31, they also jump off a chair as a symbol of jumping into the next year.


In Panama, people create effigies, also known as “munecos,” that can look like scarecrows or even straw figures that resemble famous people. They are stuffed with firecrackers and, at midnight, set on fire. Participants then beat the burning straw figures to represent destroying any evil spirits from the year before so that room can be made for good fortune in the new year.


Filipinos enjoy wearing polka dots on the last day of the year and eating round-shaped foods since they look like coins and therefore suggest wealth and prosperity for the new year. At midnight, some will jump as high as they can, with superstition suggesting it will make them taller.


Vendors sell round fruits for New Year’s in the Philippines (Photo by Josefiel Rivera/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)


To the Scots, “first-footing” is a superstition where the first person who enters a home on January 1 will dictate how the year will be. There is even a certain type of person hoped for, who will bring the most luck to the household: a dark-haired male who comes bringing the gifts of bread, a coin, a drink, and a lump of coal. These things symbolize food, financial prosperity, good spirits, and warmth. December 31 is known as “Hogmanay,” which is thought to have origins in the old Norse and Gaelic celebration of the winter solstice.


At the stroke of midnight, Spaniards eat 12 grapes as fast as they can. The legend of this tradition is that doing so wards off evil while ushering in good luck and prosperity.


To help bring prosperity for the next 12 months, people in Turkey smash pomegranates on their front doorsteps on New Year’s Eve. Playing Bingo and wearing red are some other favorite traditions. They also melt lead into water, which is supposed to ward off evil eyes or curses throughout the new year.


Lake Baikal (Photo by Dean Conger/Corbis via Getty Images)


The idea of planting new life to celebrate a new year is taken to the extreme in Russia. Deep-sea divers go into the frozen Lake Baikal, located in Siberia, cut a hole through the ice, and then plant a tree at the bottom of the water.


If you like to travel, the custom of taking an empty suitcase for a walk around the block is supposed to result in a voyage throughout the year.

U.S. Southern States

On New Year’s Day, it is important to eat black-eyed peas and greens. The beans, of which one should eat specifically 12 to represent each month in a year, are supposed to bring luck and prosperity while the greens symbolize wealth.

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