10 New Year Traditions from Around the World

While some people follow different calendars, December 31st marks the new year for many people; it is usually seen as an opportunity for letting go of negativity and embracing a fresh start. In the United States, you’ll find hats, noisemakers, countdowns, a famous ball drop, and fireworks to usher in the New Year. Some traditions, like a kiss at midnight, are meant to bring good luck. Many of these practices and celebrations are found in other countries, but let’s explore 10 unique New Year celebrations from around the world.

1. Eat Grapes in Spain

In Spain, it is a tradition to eat twelve grapes a minute before midnight on New Year’s Eve, or Noche Vieja (“Old Night”). The twelve lucky grapes are meant to ensure good fortune in the new year. They can also ward off any malignancies that may haunt you. It’s also said that the flavor of the grapes, sweet or sour, can predict what lies ahead.

2. Get Jumping in Denmark

When the clock chimes midnight, it’s considered good luck to jump from a chair onto the floor in this Scandinavian country. Taking your feet off the ground before midnight and jumping onto the floor is believed to allow you to jump into the new year with good luck.

3. Serve Spherical Fruits in the Philippines

To ring in the new year, people in the Philippines serve twelve or thirteen sphere-shaped fruits. The tables are filled with these specifically shaped fruits because the curvature is reminiscent of coins, and thus, it is believed that this practice ensures a prosperous new year.

4. Cut Cake in Greece

At midnight in Greece, families cut and serve Vasilopita, a sweet bread or cake that is baked for the holiday with coins or trinkets inside. This tradition brings blessings and good fortune in the new year. The trinket signifies good luck for the year to whomever receives it.

5. Bang Bread in Ireland

Ireland has many New Year traditions, but one notable one to bang bread off the walls and doors of your house. Banging bread on the walls can banish bad luck and usher in good luck.

6. Out with the Old in Italy

In the southern parts of Italy, like Naples, you’ll find locals throwing old dishes and even furniture out into the streets to symbolize the banishment of bad spirits. This tradition helps Italians rid themselves of negativity and offers a fresh start.

7. Wave Jumping in Brazil

Beaches in Brazil fill with people on December 31st as citizens flock to jump seven waves and wish for a joyful and abundant new year. Large fireworks displays are typically the backdrop to this joyful tradition. You may also find many people wearing white to symbolize peace and purification. People may also throw flowers into the sea as an offering to the Candomblé sea goddess, Lemanjá.

8. Ring a Bell in Japan

In Japan, bells will ring 107 times on the eve of the new year, and the 108th ring will mark the beginning of the new year. This tradition aligns with a Buddhist belief that humans have 108 vices. Ringing the bell 108 times will cleanse and purify the listeners of each one.

9. Eat Everything in Estonia

In this northeastern European country, people will eat seven, nine, or twelve meals on January 1st. The idea is to eat as many meals as you can stomach (as long as the number of meals is equal to one of the lucky numbers!). The more meals you eat, the more abundant food will be in the upcoming year.

10. Cut an Apple in the Czech Republic

An old tradition in this central European country is simple – all you need is an apple and a knife. Cut the fruit in half. The apple’s seeds can reveal what lies ahead in the next 365 days. If it’s a four-pointed cross, that’s bad news, like an illness or death. However, a five-pointed star means good luck and prosperity.

We hope you enjoyed this list of different New Year’s celebrations around the world. A Grade Ahead wishes you a very happy new year. We hope all your apples show the lucky five-pointed star!


Author: Brenna Waugaman-Szalinski, Curriculum Coordinator at A Grade Ahead


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