Some Interesting New Year’s Traditions Around The World

With a new year coming just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to see how other countries celebrate. There are some pretty interesting ways of ringing in the new year too.

  1. Ecuador – Citizens parade around the city with scarecrows built to look like popular politicians and cultural icons—and at the stroke of midnight, said scarecrows are burnt to a crisp to cleanse the new year of everything evil.

2. Brazil – It’s customary to light candles and throw white flowers into the water as an offering for Yemoja, the Queen of the Ocean, who is a major water deity and is said to control the seas, to elicit her blessings for the year to come.

3. Spain –  Locals will eat exactly 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight to honor a tradition that started in the late 19th century. Back in the 1800s, vine growers in the Alicante area came up with this tradition as a means of selling more grapes toward the end of the year, but the sweet celebration quickly caught on. Today, Spaniards enjoy eating one grape for each of the first 12 bell strikes after midnight in the hopes that this will bring about a year of good fortune and prosperity. 

4. The Netherlands – They eat Oliebollen. Ancient Germanic tribes would eat these pieces of deep-fried dough during the Yule so that when Germanic goddess Perchta, better known as Perchta the Belly Slitter, tried to cut their stomachs open and fill them with trash (a punishment for those who hadn’t sufficiently partaken in yuletide cheer), the fat from the dough would cause her sword to slide right off. Today, oliebollen are enjoyed on New Year’s Eve, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a Dutch food vendor in the winter months who isn’t selling these doughnut-like balls.

5. Russia – They plant underwater trees in the freezing water. For the past 25 years or so, it has been a Russian holiday tradition for two divers, aptly named Father Frost and the Ice Maiden, to venture into a frozen Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake, and take a New Year Tree—typically a decorated spruce—more than 100 feet below the surface. Though the temperature is normally well below freezing in Russia on New Year’s Eve, people travel from all over the world to partake in this frozen fête.

6. Italy – Italians wear red underwear. Italians have a tradition of wearing red underwear to ring in the new year. In Italian culture, the color red is associated with fertility, and so people wear it under their clothes in the hopes that it will help them conceive in the coming year.

7. Greece – The Greeks hang onions on their front door in order to promote growth throughout the new year. Greek culture has long associated this food with the idea of development, seeing as all the odorous onion ever seemingly wants is to plant its roots and keep growing. Onions are a symbol of rebirth to the Greeks.

8. Chili – New Year’s services are not held in churches, but are instead held in cemeteries. This change of scenery allows for people to sit with their deceased family members and include them in the New Year’s Eve festivities.

9. Japan – In Japanese culture, it is customary to welcome the new year with a bowl of soba noodles in a ritual known as toshikoshi soba, or year-crossing noodles. Though nobody is entirely sure where toshikoshi soba first came from, it is believed that the soba’s thin shape and long length is meant to signify a long and healthy life. Many folks also believe that because the buckwheat plant used to make soba noodles is so resilient, people eat the pasta on New Year’s Eve to signify their strength. 

10. Denmark – In Denmark they smash plates against people’s front doors. People take pride in the number of broken dishes outside of their door by the end of New Year’s Eve. It’s a Danish tradition to throw china at your friends’ and neighbors’ front doors on New Year’s Eve—some say it’s a means of leaving any aggression and ill-will behind before the New Year begins—and it is said that the bigger your pile of broken dishes, the more luck you will have in the upcoming year.

Some of these traditions sound fun, others are a bit to out there for me. But do whatever floats your boat. I personally enjoy the way we celebrate here in the United States, England and Australia, with the big ball dropping, the countdown and fireworks, but most importantly, celebrating with family and friends.

No matter where you are in the world or how you celebrate, I hope 2023 is indeed a Happy New Year for all. May you be safe, healthy and prosperous all throughout the upcoming new year. Happy New Year Everyone.


Author: ajeanneinthekitchen

I have worked in the restaurant and catering industry for over 35 years. I attended 2 culinary schools in Southern California, and have a degree in culinary arts from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, as well as a few other degrees in other areas. I love to cook and I love to feed people.

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