10 New Year’s Traditions Around the World
Many people see New Year as a significant time, filled with new beginnings, challenges, hopes, and dreams. Like some other holidays, it’s celebrated differently around the world. So as we jump into 2023, let’s find out about how different countries welcome the new year…
1) The United States: The ball drop
In the U.S., millions of people gather at midnight to watch the Times Square Ball Drop on TV or in Times Square itself. The shiny ball, (covered with crystal triangles) begins its descent down a special pole at 11:59 P.M. on New Year’s Eve as millions of people count down the remaining seconds of the year, and it officially drops at midnight to celebrate the beginning of the new year. This event was created in 1907 to highlight the New York Times’s new headquarters, and it’s been one of the most popular New Year’s traditions in the U.S. since. Even other cities around the U.S., such as Panama City, Forney, and Chicago, now have similar ball drops, but the most famous is still the one in Times Square.
2) Brazil: Going to the beach
In Brazil, people go to the beach because it’s summer there. Right after midnight hits, they jump seven waves while making seven wishes. Before they get into the water, they’re supposed to wear all white as a symbol of purity. This tradition came from honoring the goddess of water, Yemanja.
3) Spain: Eating grapes for prosperity
In Spain, people eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, believing it will ward off evil and provide them with good luck for the new year. This tradition started in the late 19th century, when vine growers in the Alicante area came up with this idea to sell more grapes. The means of celebration grew, Spaniards eat one grape for each of the strikes of the clock after midnight.
4) Russia: Planting Underwater Trees
This holiday tradition was pretty recently initiated; it came to be about 25 years ago. Two divers, named Father Frost and the Ice Maiden head into the world’s largest freshwater lake, the (frozen) Lake Baikal. They bring with them a New Year’s tree, usually a decorated spruce, more than 100 feet below the surface. The freezing temperatures don’t stop people from all over the world from traveling to witness this cool custom.
5) Ireland: Hitting bread against the walls
Families in Ireland ward off evil spirits by banging loaves of bread (or even pots, pans, or wooden spoons) against walls and doors throughout their homes. They also believe it protects their homes and communities from bad luck.
6) Columbia: Putting three potatoes under the bed
New Year’s Eve in Columbia is celebrated with a tradition called agüero, when they place three potatoes under everyone’s beds. One potato is peeled, another isn’t, and the last one only partially, representing either good fortune, financial struggle, or a mix of both. Each person grabs one potato with their eyes closed at midnight, and depending on which one they get, that’s said to be their fate.
7) Greece: Hanging an onion on the door
In Greece, people hang an onion outside the door. The onions are believed to be symbols of growth and fertility due to the way they can sprout on their own, so they hang an onion on the door right after church service on New Year’s Day.
8) Haiti: Eating soup joumou
January 1st is also Haitian Independence Day, so there’s an important New Year’s Day meal partnered with the holiday. Haitians celebrate by eating pumpkin soup, or soup joumou, because it was considered a delicacy that enslaved African-Americans weren’t allowed to have. Often people swap some of their soup for someone else’s, since different families have slightly different ways of making the soup.
9) Puerto Rico: Cleaning your home
A lot of countries, one example being Puerto Rico, believe in the positivity of starting the year by cleaning everything. In Puerto Rico, people clean up their homes and get rid of the old to make room for the new. They start the new year fresh in hopes it will continue to be that way.
10) Denmark: Throwing plates
On New Year’s Eve, people in Denmark break plates by throwing them at each others’ doors. It is a Danish tradition to break kitchenware/china against the front doors of neighbors and friends the day before New Year. It is believed to be a means of leaving any negativity behind before the start of the next year, and also that the bigger your pile of broken plates, the better luck you will have.