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New Year Traditions Around the Globe

Traditions and superstitions for welcoming the new year.

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As we say goodbye to 2020, a strange year with a novel virus, giant murder hornets, economic woes, school closures, and a completely different way of daily living, we can look forward to bringing 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 of the other traditions around the world?

Around the World

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 bids farewell to the old year and is an ode to long-standing friendships.


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.


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.


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 like to 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.


The Filipinos enjoy wearing polka dots on the last day of the year and consuming round-shaped foods since they resemble 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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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