15 Of The Strangest New Year’s Traditions Around The World

Roberta Mancuso takes us in a tour around the world to witness the 15 strangest New Year's tradition in different countries.

sydney habour bridge & opera house fireworks new year eve 2008
Image by Hai Linh Truong. Source: Flickr.

Many of us spent New Year’s Eve eating, drinking and partying like it’s … 2018. But there are others around the world who prefer to spice up their celebrations in a bunch of weird and wonderful ways.

When it comes to celebrating the New Year, everyone has their own unique way of doing things. From throwing bread, smashing plates on friends’ doors, jumping waves to donning colorful underpants. These are 15 bizarre ways to celebrate the end of the year around the world.

1. Colombia

New Year’s in Colombia is filled with superstition and there’s a host of ways people celebrate, but perhaps the most interesting is this: As the clock strikes midnight, dash out the door with your suitcase and run once around the block. The reason? It guarantees you will have a travel-filled year!

2. Spain

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, tradition dictates you must eat 12 grapes — one at each stroke of the clock. The grapes are supposed to signify good luck for every month of the coming year.

3. South Africa

If you’re celebrating in Johannesburg, head’s up! Locals there throw old appliances out the window or off their balconies, including fridges, televisions, microwaves and even old couches. The act is meant to symbolize getting rid of the old in favor of the new.

4. Denmark

You can’t accuse the Danes of having boring New Year’s traditions. They save unused plates, dishes and glasses until the 31st of December and ring in the New Year by hurling them against the doors of their relatives and friends. Not just a mess, it’s meant to be an affectionate (though now unusable) gift from loved ones to bring luck to the coming year. They also climb on top of tables and chairs at midnight and leap off them, literally, into the New Year.

5. Central and South America

What color underpants you wear on New Year’s will determine your fate for the year ahead in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela. It’s considered lucky to wear special underwear on New Year’s Eve, with yellow supposed to bring in money and red meaning you will find love.

6. Bolivia

In Bolivia, coins are baked into cakes and other sweets. The person who finds the coin while eating the cake gets good luck in the next year, as well as a sugar rush.

7. Finland

In Finland, it’s tradition to predict the year by casting molten tin into a bucket of water and interpreting the shape the metal then takes when it hardens. For example, a ship is meant to signify you will travel, while a heart or ring shape means there will be wedding bells in the New Year.

8. Philippines

It’s all about round shapes in the Philippines for New Years. Anything round is supposed to represent coins and symbolize prosperity. Families will fill their tables with 12 round fruits such as grapes, oranges, cantaloupe and watermelon, each to signify a month of the year. Eating a lot of round foods means you’ll make a lot of money in the New Year.

9. Ireland

There are probably better ways to make use of your bread, but in Ireland people like to bash it against the walls and doors of their home on New Year’s to ward off evil spirits. Some also see it as a way of encouraging good luck and ensuring there will be plenty of bread available over the coming year.

10. Panama

In Panama, effigies of famous people are burned as a way to start the New Year off with good luck. The effigies can include anyone including celebrities, public figures and politicians such as Fidel Castro. Burning them represents burning the troubles and miseries of the past year and bringing in a fresh start.

11. Estonia

Estonians celebrate by filling themselves to the brim with food, eating seven, nine or 12 dishes on New Year’s Eve. The numbers are meant to bring luck, and the more you eat, the luckier you get. With every meal, it is said you will gain more strength in the coming year.

12. Canada/US

At the stroke of midnight, it’s tradition for people to kiss someone – either a significant other or a mysterious stranger who is closest to you. A kiss on New Year’s Eve is said to bring good fortune. Some people think that failing to kiss someone will set you up for a year of loneliness.

13. Brazil

In Brazil, revellers make their way to the beach. When midnight comes around, they jump seven waves to bring good luck and honor the Goddess of the Sea, Iemanja. Some people also set little boats with flowers, jewelry and other gifts into the water. If the offers float out to sea instead of being brought back to shore by the waves, Iemanja will reward them with a year of good luck.

14. Japan

In Japan, people dress up as the zodiac animal of the upcoming year – 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. They also head to a local temple where the bell is rung 108 times, a sacred number.

15. Romania

Romanians participate in a 2,000-year-old tradition which involves dressing up as bears and dancing around to scare off bad spirits. They believe bears will protect them and ensure they have a prosperous New Year. The festival, called Ursul, originated from an ancient Indo-European tribe who believed bears were sacred.

Do you have any unusual ways of celebrating New Year’s or any special traditions? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. If you enjoyed this story, please share via the social media buttons!