New Year’s Eve Celebrations Around the World

New Year’s Eve Celebrations Around the World

Peru – What They Wear

When I was preparing for my trip to Peru, I read that they have some pretty unusual New Year’s Eve traditions.  For starters, they wear yellow underwear (yellow is the color of good luck).  Peruvians wear these yellow undergarments inside out until midnight, then change to the right way once the new year begins.  Other Latin American countries have similar traditions focused on wearing new, brightly colored underwear.

Other Peruvian New Year’s Eve traditions (and believe me, there are plenty!) include eating 12 grapes under the table, running around the block with an empty suitcase (to assure good luck in traveling), placing a coin in each shoe (to bring wealth), throwing a coin over your shoulder to get rid of the previous year’s poverty, and many more.  There are literally dozens of unusual traditions/superstitions for this holiday in Peru, which got me wondering what people do in other countries to celebrate.

New Years Eve Around the World - Yellow underwear brings good luck in Peru.
The sign reads (in part) Don’t forget! Kuko’s luck! December 31 – Luck… lots of luck. Photo via Flickr by Pamela Jai

The Philippines – What They Eat

In the Philippines, bringing in the new year is a noisy affair. In addition to a celebration with fireworks, people in the Philippines thump pots or pans repeatedly and blow car horns in order to drive away any evil spirits. The goal is to make as much noise as possible. But that’s not the only tradition. There is also “Media Noche,” a night of feasting and drinking with family members on New Year’s Eve.  The feast contains no chicken or fish because those foods symbolize famine.  Twelve round fruits (usually serving as the table’s centerpiece) are eaten at this feast.  Other dishes include sticky rice to strengthen the family bond and pancit (long noodles) to bring good health and long life.

new year's eve around the world - Philippines media noche feast
Typical Philippino feast. Image via Flickr by Hungarian Snow. Image has been cropped.

Sweden – What They Recite

Swedes view the beginning of a new year as a magical time, when people try to foresee the future. One way of telling your future was to pour molten lead in water and then interpret the shapes that were produced. Another was to toss shoes. If your shoe landed with the toe pointing towards the door, it meant you would move away or even die during the year.  Another tradition states that one should not to carry anything out of the house, as this signifies discarding happiness for the rest of the year.

new years eve around the world - sweden skansen museum stockholm
Some of the New Year’s Eve festivities at the Skansen museum in Stockholm. Photo via Flickr by nicoversity.

Just before midnight, Swedes at the Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm recite the following poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Turkey – What They Buy

Turkey holds a special lottery on New Year’s Eve, so buying lottery tickets is an annual tradition for many.

New Years Eve Around the World - Turkey has a tradition of making a gift of lottery tickets at the start of a new year.
A Turkish lottery agent selling tickets. Photo via Flickr by ccarlstead.

In addition, many people will sprinkle salt on the doorstep at midnight to bring peace and abundance to their home or business.

Denmark – What They Watch

In Denmark, New Year’s Eve festivities begin with a short speech from the queen – a tradition that has been in place since 1880.  Once Her Majesty has concluded her remarks, a meal with an entree of boiled cod is served.  For desert, there is a towering stack of marzipan rings known as kransekage.

After the meal, Danes may watch an 18-minute film called “Dinner for One.” The sketch presents the 90th birthday of upper-class Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who hosts a celebration dinner every year for her friends Mr Pomeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby and Admiral von Schneider. The problem is that Miss Sophie has outlived all of her friends, so her equally aged butler James makes his way around the table, impersonating each of the guests in turn.

The crucial exchange during every course is:

James: The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James!

By the end of the dinner, James is severely inebriated, having consumed 16 glasses of wine. Miss Sophie, who has herself had four rounds of wine, still appears sober; she tells the very drunk James that she wishes to retire to bed. Hand in hand, they head to the staircase and recite the closing lines of dialogue:

James: By the way, the same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
Miss Sophie (delightedly): The same procedure as every year, James!
James (slyly): Well, I’ll do my very best!
New Years Eve Around the World - Denmark's Must See TV for New Year's Eve
A scene from “Dinner for One”

Japan – What They Hang Up

In Japan, there is no shortage of New Year’s traditions.  As the calendar turns from one year to the next, they laugh in an effort to ward off evil spirits.  The bells in Buddhist temples ring 108 times to keep away evil forces.  The traditional Japanese New Year dinner menu features boiled seaweed, mashed sweet potato with chestnut, fish cakes, sweetened black soybeans, and simmered burdock root.

In matters of decor, the Japanese hang shimenawa at the entrance of their homes.  Shimenawa are lengths of rice straw rope normally used for ritual purification in the Shinto religion, warding off evil spirits and indicating the sacred areas where gods descend.

New Year's Eve Around the World - Japanese Shimenawa to ward off evil spirits
A Japanese shimenawa. Photo via Flickr by Paul Davidson.

Germany – What They Say

You won’t hear anyone in Germany say, “Happy New Year,” but rather “Guten Rutsch”to wish everyone a good slide into the new year.  Likewise, December 31 is not known as New Year’s Eve.  In Germany it is Silvester, the saint’s day for Pope Silvester, who died on that date in 335 AD.  On a superstitious note, having laundry hanging on the clothesline at the start of the new year supposedly brings bad luck.  Like their Danish neighbors, the Germans are also fond of pouring molten lead into cold water and watching Dinner for One on New Year’s Eve.

Panama & Ecuador – What They Burn

In many Latin American countries, such as Panama and Ecuador, a New Year’s Eve bonfire includes burning effigies of politicians, pop culture figures, and other icons of the year.  The effigies represent the old year and burning them is meant to drive off evil spirits for a fresh start to the new year.

New Year's Eve Around the World - Latin American tradition of burning effigies that represent bad things from the previous year.
Effigies representing the year’s presidential race prior to their being burned at midnight. Photo via Flick by Joe Ross.

Belarus – What They Feed the Roosters

In Belarus, the New Year’s Eve traditions seem to focus on marrying off the single ladies. In one, women stand with a pile of corn before them, and a hungry rooster a little bit farther away. Whichever pile of corn the rooster approaches first reveals who will be the first to marry. In another game, a married woman hides certain items around her house for her unmarried friends to find.  The woman who finds bread will marry a rich man, while the one who finds a ring will marry a handsome man.

New Years Eve Around the World

These are just a few of the ways we celebrate New Year’s Eve around the world. I think it could be interesting to travel for New Year’s.  After all, celebrating the holiday in a different country could inspire you to start new traditions of your own here at home!

Travelasmuch.com Guide to New Year's Eve Celebrations Around the World.

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