9 New Year Traditions Around the World

For many, celebrating New Year’s provides a time to wish good luck and prosperity to friends, family, and other loved ones. New Year’s events feature parades, parties, shows and other activities to say goodbye to one year and welcome another. Many countries around the world celebrate New Year’s on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, and have their own unique customs and traditions. From certain foods to midnight traditions, countries all over world welcome the new year with open arms. Here are some interesting New Year traditions around the world:

New Year Traditions

Photo: Christopher Michel

England

Aside from more traditional bonfire and firework shows, people open their back door to let the old year out. Then they ask a dark-haired man to enter the front door with salt, coal and bread. These items symbolize the following: salt (money), coal (warmth) and bread (food).

Denmark

Most times New Year’s in Denmark is celebrated with friends not family. Traditions include the monarch’s New Year Speech, fireworks, and boiled cod, stewed kale and cured saddle of pork. At midnight, people gather to jump off chairs together.

Finland

The casting of tin is a long-time Finland tradition. Everyone gets a miniature tin horseshoe – which represents good luck – and melts the tin down. They pour the melted tin into cold water, let it transform into a new shape, and interpret the new shape. For example, a ship forecasts travel.

Spain

In Spain at midnight, people quickly eat 12 grapes, one at each stroke of the clock. Each grape signifies good luck for the coming year, one for each month. Fireworks are also important, as they serve to drive away evil spirits and leave space for holiness and good luck.

New Year's Traditions

Photo: Matteo Garza

Philippines

Round shapes, representing coins, symbolize prosperity in the new year. Many showcase round fruits on their tables, eat exactly 12 at midnight and wear polka dots for good luck.

Japan

It’s tradition to eat soba buckwheat noodles in the evening to wish for a long life as long as the noodles. Near midnight, the temple bells ring 108 times as the old year ends and the new one begins.

Central and South America

In some countries, it’s considered wearing special colored undergarments for good luck. The most popular colors are red for love and yellow for money. Some countries even have vendors selling the undergarments.

United States

Ball drops, fireworks shows and big parties are popular in the U.S. People eat black-eyed peas for good luck, greens to symbolize money, and noodles and grains for abundance. In the South, try Hoppin’ John, a dish with pork, beans and greens combined. Learn more about food for New Year’s in the U.S.

Hawaii

Mochi pounding is one of the most popular traditions. They soak rice for days, and two people use large ceremonial mallets to pound the rice. A third person kneads the dough between stokes. Non-aerial fireworks are also used all over the islands in lieu of firework shows.

Read about more interesting New Year’s traditions.