Everyone has their own traditions when it comes to New Year's Eve. Maybe you prefer a low-key evening spent with friends and a homemade New Year's Eve dinner. Or maybe you kick it up a notch with karaoke and dancing like Ree Drummond and her family. But really, there is no wrong way to celebrate the impending new year as long as you enjoy it. In fact, depending on where you live, you might take part in one of these New Year's traditions from around the world. From eating New Year's good luck foods to tossing white flowers in the ocean, these unique and storied traditions are worth a try.
Although most of us cross our fingers and hope that the next year will only bring good things, there are people in countries like Germany, Scotland, Denmark, and Brazil who carry out specific customs, most often at the stroke of midnight, to secure that good luck. Anything from wearing symbolic colors to sprinkling salt on your doorstep are said to encourage good fortune, abundance, and financial success for the coming year.
Here in the United States, there are so many ways that you can mark the ending of another year, such as playing trivia with friends, toasting the new year, and of course, watching the ball drop in Times Square—but maybe you'll want to add a few of these international traditions to your New Year's Eve plans. A little extra luck is always a good thing!
Grapes for Good Luck
You may see people in Spain eat 12 grapes at midnight, a tradition that started back in the late 19th century. The custom was originally thought up by vine growers to sell more grapes at the end of the year, but it stuck! Spaniards eat one grape with each bell strike, which is believed to result in good fortune.
Carrying Empty Suitcases
Hoping for plenty of travel in the upcoming year? Then do as they do in Columbia and carry an empty suitcase around the block. It's a practice that's thought to encourage lots of traveling in the new year.
For New Year's in Scotland, they observe something called "First Footing." Scots believe that the first person who crosses the threshold of a home after midnight should preferably be a dark-haired man, which can bring about a lucky new year.
Tossing White Flowers in the Ocean
Brazilians have a custom of throwing white flowers into the sea each new year. Doesn't that sound so romantic? Residents will toss flowers and candles into the Atlantic Ocean as offerings to Yemoja, a god of water who can pass along good things in the upcoming year.
In Japan, they welcome the new year by eating bowls of soba noodles, or noodles made from buckwheat flour. They're nicknamed "year-crossing noodles," and while the origins of this tradition aren't exactly known, generally, people believe that the long noodles represent a long life.
Pigs? And New Year's? There's actually a connection between the two, at least in Germany. Germans call this custom "Glücksschwein," which translates to "lucky pig." Pigs appear as marzipan treats, and noshing on them can foster good fortune in the new year.
New Year’s Feast
Food is certainly a big part of New Year’s here in the United States, but in France, it’s an event all on its own. Called “le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre,” the meal celebrates the “awakening” of the patron saint of New Year’s and features delectable gourmet foods, like oysters and lobster.
Red for Good Luck
Red is a color that denotes good fortune and happiness, and in China, it’s a hue that’s often attached to New Year’s. You’ll spot decorations, fans, gift packets, and lanterns in shades of red.
No matter what time of year it is, pomegranates are very important in Greece. In Greek mythology, the fruit represents abundance and life, things that are tied to New Year’s there. Just after midnight, Greeks will crush pomegranates against their doors—the number of seeds that fall to the ground symbolize how much good luck you can expect in the new year.
Cleaning Streets, Cars, and More
At the start of the new year, Puerto Rico just might be the cleanest country around, since their tradition is to clean their homes and cities top to bottom, from indoor spaces to cars to streets. It’s a way to start out with fresh energy in the new year.
While we might be used to cutting up apples for a pie, in the Czech Republic, cut-up apples hold unique significance when it comes to New Year’s. On New Year’s Eve, residents will cut apples in half and the shape inside denotes what one can expect in the coming year. For instance, while a star is good, a cross can foretell a future illness.
Italy is almost always known for dishes like spaghetti and linguini, but during New Year’s celebrations, it’s all about the lentils. Italians see lentils as mini, edible “coins,” and if you include them in your New Year’s Eve dinner, they’ll bring some luck into your life.
In the United States, spilling the salt can represent bad luck, but in Turkey, sprinkling salt is encouraged. Turks will sprinkle salt on their doorsteps at midnight, something that can generate success in the new year.
On New Year’s Eve, Columbians place one peeled, one unpeeled, and one half-peeled potato under their beds. When the clock strikes midnight, they pull out the first potato their hand touches, and the potatoes symbolize different things: a peeled potato means financial ruin. An unpeeled potato promises a good year all around. And a half-peeled potato is a mix of good and bad for the year.
Jumping Off Chairs
Perhaps back in the day, you and your friends jumped off chairs at parties for fun, but in Denmark, it’s a real New Year’s tradition. There, people try to jump off their chairs in unison at midnight, a symbol of jumping forward into a new year.
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