Interesting New Years customs from around the world

Sydney harbour firworks
To most people, the New Year is a time for new beginnings. It is an opportunity to put behind all our worries, mistakes and conflicts. It represents an opportunity to start over. It therefore comes as little surprise that we welcome the holiday with great optimism and enthusiasm. In the US and indeed in many other countries, the occasion is marked with fireworks and parades, toasts and carousing. If you are an expat working abroad, you need to know how the New Year is celebrated in the particular country you are working in. In this article, we take a look at some of the New Year traditions around the world.

Spain's 12 grapes of luck is a tradition that is relatively easy to observe. You just need to have handy supply of grapes at your disposal. Each grape stands for good luck for a month of the year ahead. In the large Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona, revelers assemble in the main squares to eat their grapes together and pass bottles of cava around.

Usually, a person is required to consume a grape with each bell clock strike at night. Just make sure you finish eating all the 12 grapes with the bell, and you will have eaten your way to 12 months of prosperity.

The Danes have a very interesting way of ushering in the New Year. They hurl unused or broken glasses and plates against the doors of friends and relatives. The more broken dishes you have the better. Also, they stand on chairs and then jump off them at midnight together. Leaping into January is thought to dispense with bad spirits and give you good luck.

This is long-standing Finnish tradition meant to predict the forthcoming year. Molten tin is cast into a container with water, after which the shape the metal assumes after hardening is predicted. If the shape turns out to be a heart or a ring, it signifies wedding in the upcoming year. On the other hand, a ship shape signifies travel while pig shape symbolizes lots of food.

In the South American country of Colombia right at the stroke of midnight, people who are looking to travel a lot in the New Year grab empty suitcases and then run with them around the block. The faster you run, the more travel you can expect.


Brazilians may be more famous for ushering in the New Year on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. However, they also have another major way of marking the New Years Eve and this is by wearing white. They believe that wearing white clothing brings good luck for the year ahead. The occasion is in most cases accompanied by taking a trip to the beach where flowers are thrown in the sea as one makes a wish.

Puerto Rico
In the Central American country of Puerto Rico, it is very common to find traditions that involve water around the time of the New Year. According to one custom, throwing a bucketful or a cupful of water out the window help banish the evil spirits. Others fall back into the waves as the clocks chimes.

South Africa 
South Africans have the most expensive New Year tradition of all the traditions discussed so far. Residents of Johannesburg (the capital city of South Africa) throw furniture out their window. It has resulted in injuries to passersby, something that made the local authorities outlaw this tradition.

There are dozens of Peruvian New Year’s traditions, and they vary from putting on new clothes, and having candles lit to even jotting down wishes. All of these are practiced so as to bring good luck for the year ahead.

Every year when December comes to an end, people from a small Peruvian village engage in fist fighting to settle differences. After that, they are free to walk into the New Year on clean slate.

Another tradition, and this is by far the most interesting one, is foretelling the fortunes in the coming year using potatoes. According to tradition, three potatoes are put under a sofa or a chair. One is peeled, another is unpeeled and the other one is half-peeled. Come midnight and one potato is randomly picked to forecast the state of finances in the coming year. The peeled potato is bad luck as it signifies no money. The half-peeled symbolizes an ordinary year financially and the unpeeled one is a symbol for great financial bounty.

In Stonehaven, a town in Scotland, there is a tradition of parading through the streets on the Eve of the New Year while swinging around blazing balls of fire. This event forms part of Hogmanay celebrations, but it roots go way back to the Vikings.

The Belgians refer to the eve of the New Year as St. Sylvester Eve. They throw family parties in which everyone kisses and exchange fortune greetings as well as raising toasts to usher in the New Year. Children often save money to be used for buying decorative paper on which to write New Year greetings for elders.

South America
In several South American countries, it is believed that wearing colored undergarments bring luck, especially when worn around the New Year. If you want love, just wear red underwear and if you are looking to be generally prosperous in the New Year, you will be better off donning gold undergarments. White, on the other hand, brings peace in the upcoming year. The tradition is also common in Turkey.

New Year's traditions are different in various parts of the world. Some wear red underwear, others hurl glasses on other people's doors and others just wear new clothes. Knowing the different New Year's traditions around the world as an expat will help you keep in touch with the local communities during the festive season.

What are some of the customs in you country?