Unique New Year’s Food and Traditions from Around the World


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New Year’s Eve is one of the most exciting and anticipated nights of the year, a chance to look back at the good times of the year past, and look hopefully ahead to the future. All around the world, people have different customs and traditions that they observe to make sure that the new year is the best one yet. From diving into icy lakes to putting on your lucky underwear, there are all kinds of weird traditions across the world designed to bring love, laughter and prosperity in the new year.

In most countries, alcohol, food and family play a big part in welcoming in the new year and have done for many generations. When Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar, the new year began on the 1st January to honour the month’s namesake, Janus, who had two faces to look forward into the future and back into the past. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending wild parties. Whilst we might have ditched the laurel and sacrifice, many of us have our own rituals that we follow to welcome in the new year. Here are some of the weirdest and most wonderful from around the world.

 Eating 12 Grapes in Spain

At midnight on New Year’s Eve Spanish people quickly eat 12 grapes, one at each stroke of midnight. It isn’t unusual to see people gathered in the street to eat their grapes with friends and neighbours as the bells for the new year chime. Each grape is meant to assure one month of luck, with one for each month of the coming year.

Denmark’s Broken Plates

In Demark, people save their unused dishes throughout the year so that they can smash them against the doors of their friends’ and neighbours’ houses as part of New Year celebrations. Smashing the plates is meant to bring luck for the new year, and of course the size of your broken plate pile is a good indicator of how liked you are in the community.

broken plates denmark tradition

Ring in the New Year 108 Times in Japan

In Japan, the new year is welcomed in with the peal of temple bells, which are rung 108 times on the stroke of midnight. The 108 rings symbolise the 108 human sins in Buddhist beliefs, and cleanse them away ready for a new year. It often seems like the entire hillside is ringing in unison in areas with a large number of temples. 

Drop Ice Cream in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the new year is welcomed in by scooping a perfect ball of ice cream, and then promptly dropping it on the floor. The practice is thought to bring good luck for the family, although admittedly not for whoever’s turn it is to clean up. 

Smack the Wall with Some Bread in Ireland

One of Ireland’s traditions for welcoming in the new year is less concerned with luck and more with warding off evil spirits. They bake a loaf of bread, which is then sliced up and whacked against the walls of the house. The loud noise is meant to scare off evil spirits, ready for the new year.

Jump into a Frozen lake in Siberia

In Siberia, their New Year’s traditions are a little chilling, literally. The young men of the area jump into a frozen lake, carrying an enormous tree trunk. The trunk is then placed beneath the ice surrounding the hole.

siberia new year tradition

Central and South American Lucky Undies

Lots of countries in Central and South America like to make sure they’re going to get the right kind of luck for the new year. They wear brightly coloured underwear, thought to bring specific luck depending on the colour, with red for love and yellow for money being the most popular.

First Foot Forward in Scotland

The Scottish celebrate New Year with a practise called first-footing. Friends and neighbours vie to be the first across the threshold in the new year, quickly rushing round to one another’s houses. It is common to bringing gifts such as whisky, and occasionally a lump of coal, for luck.

Tuck into Rice Pudding in Norway

In the chilly climes of Norway, it’s little surprise that they welcome in the New Year with a warming treat. A huge vat of rice pudding is made for all the family to enjoy. An almond is hidden in the pudding, and whoever discovers it in their bowl will have prosperity for the year to come.

Suckling Pig in Cuba

In Cuba, the traditional food to welcome in the new year is suckling pig. It is roasted over a fire, for all of your friends and family to come and share. The animal’s youth symbolises advancement into the future (although apparently not for the pig).

Carry an Empty Suitcase in Colombia

In Colombia, it is common to see people walking around the local square with an empty suitcase on New Year’s Eve. The tradition is meant to ensure that the suitcase carrier will have plenty of exciting travel all over the world in the coming year.

colombia new year tradition

 Casting the Future in Finland

Finland has a common tradition of finding out what the future holds by casting molten tin in cold water on New Year’s Eve. Whatever shape the tin sets in predicts what is waiting in the year ahead, with a ring meaning marriage and a pig meaning plenty of food.

Look all Round in the Philippines 

It’s all about ensuring prosperity in the Philippines, who like all things round for New Year celebrations. Round shapes are meant to symbolise coins, and ensure wealth for the year ahead. It is common for families to heap circular fruit on the dining table to create prosperity in the household for the new year, and people often wear polka dot clothing.

Corny wedding Predictions in Belarus

Belarus traditions are designed to indicate which of the single women will be lucky enough to meet their man in the year ahead. One of the most popular customs is for each of the single women in a family to put corn on the ground in front of her, then a rooster is set free in the room and whoever’s pile he approaches first will be the first to be married in the new year.

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