12 Unusual New Year’s Traditions from Around the World

Unusual New Year's Traditions

My house celebrates New Year’s Eve & Day pretty much that same way as most Americans: a New Year’s Eve party celebrated with friends, watching the Times Square ball drop in front of the tele with the family, & the next day stuffing ourselves with ham, kielbasa, & sauerkraut. In keeping with my unusual traditions to ring in the new year- AKA Unusual Ball-Dropping Ceremonies in the U.S. & Canada (you can check out the link here)- I’ve researched some unusual New Year’s Traditions from around the world and really think they’re worth a read and mention. From mistletoe under the pillow to marzipan pigs, here a fun list of 12 unusual New Year’s traditions from around the world. 


Russia likes to celebrate with a bit of the bubbly but throws a bit of good luck into the drink. Just before midnight, folks write a wish for the new year on a bit of paper, burn it, then add it to their drink and down it in the hopes their wish will come true. 

Philippines & Argentina

Both Philippines & Argentina believe that consuming beans will bring them good luck in the coming year. Philippines has an additional tradition of eating green food as well to bring a prosperous year and good luck. 

Puerto Rico

If I were to randomly chuck a bucket of water out of my window, The Kid would accuse me of trying to douse her. In Puerto Rico, throwing a bucket of water out of a house’s window a the new year is believed to keep evil spirits away. Puerto Ricans also enjoy eating 12 grapes at 12 seconds before midnight (this is also a tradition in Spain).


Can’t ya just smell that fresh bread- being banged against the wall? The Gaelic tradition in Ireland of a new year requires families to bang a loaf of bread against the wall in the belief that it will ward off evil spirits and keep bad luck away. Another tradition is for single ladies to keep a sprig of mistletoe underneath their pillow in the hopes that they’ll find a husband in the coming year. 


Ringing in the new year once just isn’t enough for the citizens of Macedonia– they have two celebrations. December 31st through January 1st is very similar to the merriment in the U.S., but the Macedonians celebrate Old New Year on January 14th along with Orthodox churches in Russia & several Eastern European countries. 


Unusual New Year's Traditions Germany edible pigs
Photo By:flickr/Karen

Sweet, little handcrafted piggies are given out at the New Year for good luck. The Glücksschwein dates back to decks of playing cards where the decks’ aces were known as “die sau”- German for the sow. If you’re want a real history lesson, here you go: Wild boar was considered a holy animal and revered by Germanic tribes in Central Europe. As the years, passed, the pig became a symbol of wealth and prosperity. To this day, pigs are considered to be lucky charms in Germany


Greeks celebrate St. Vasilios Day on New Year’s with a Vasilios cake that the head of house cuts and passes out & by playing the lottery in the hopes that winning on the first day of the year will bring them wealth for the rest of it. In Crete a rare, wild & poisonous onion grows. Even when uprooted, the onion will continue to grow leaves and flowers. Cretians believe that the onion holds rare qualities and hang onions on their doors and in their homes for good luck.


In Denmark, walking out onto your doorstep and finding a heap of broken dishes in considered to be great luck for the coming year. Throughout the year citizens will save old dishes specifically for the New Year’s tradition, and they believe more broken plates you find, the more friends you have. 


The Japanese love cleaning their houses from top to bottom for the New Year. According to a Shinto tradition, cleaning in every crack and crevice is required to welcome a kami (god) who comes to the house on New Year’s Day. Children often help their mothers during this time. 


Finland has a reserved Christmas, but come the New Year they go all out with fireworks and grand parties. Finnish folks love attempting to predict the future on New Year’s, and a tradition that still occurs is tin casting. Participants get a small cast of tin in the shape of a tiny horseshoe to symbolize good luck.
The tin is then melted and hurriedly thrown into a bucket of cold water where its shadow and shape is then interpreted. If the cast doesn’t stay in one solid lump, but instead breaks down into small pieces, the owner is predicted to have bad luck for the coming year. 


In addition to eating 12 grapes at midnight, sweeping with a broom from your door stoop out towards the street to remove bad vibes from the house, & throwing a glass of water away from the house to expel worries and negativity, a cute tradition in Mexico involves a red ribbon. If a person wants another person to love them in the coming year they will often sleep with a photo of their love under their pillow tied with a red ribbon. 

I really enjoyed reading up on New Year’s traditions all over the world and, although this article uses the word “unusual” to describe customs, I have to wonder if many of these countries feel that our American New Year’s traditions are unusual.

In the languages of the countries above, с новым годом, Mabungahong Bag-ong Tuig kaninyong tanan, Feliz Año Nuevo, Nollaig Shona duit, среќна нова година, glückliches neues jahr, ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος, Glaedelig Jul og godt nyter, Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta!, & Happy New Year!

Link to flickr creative commons licence here.
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