14 New Year’s traditions from around the world

It’s New Year’s Eve! By now you probably know how you’re going to honor the past year and welcome in the new one. But do you know how folks around the globe get their party on? Here are a few favorites:

1.) Celebrating New Year’s Eve at a party in Spain? Expect your host to provide you with 12 grapes—one to represent each month of the upcoming year—to eat at the stroke of midnight to ensure prosperity throughout the year.

12 grapes

Image credit: 12 Grapes Before Midnight by ChrisOakley, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

2.) In the Phillipines, having circular shapes (as a substitute for coins) as a part of the festivities is essential to ensure good fortune in the coming year. People either wear clothing with polka dots or nosh on round fruit (or both) to bring prosperity their way.

Polka dots

Image credit: Sindy: Polka Party 1975 by SpeckledOwl on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

3.) Rice pudding with a hidden almond is on the traditional Scandinavian New Year’s table. The person who finds the almond in their bowl gets a little extra luck in the coming year. Or, at least a little extra protein.

Rice pudding

Image credit: Untitled by Tim Regan, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

4.) The Danes know how to throw a rowdy New Year’s celebration. During the evening’s festivities, they hurl old dishes at the doors of friends. (Out with the old I guess.) They also stand on chairs and hop off of them at the stroke of midnight to jump in the new year with good luck.

Chair jump

Image credit: i can try by Claire Gillman, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

5.) In the southern United States, people eat dishes containing black eyed peas for good luck. Eating round foods for continued good luck in the new year is a common tradtion across many cultures.

Black eyed peas

Image credit: Hoppin’ John by Robert S. Donovan, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

6.) If you’re eating vasilopita in Greece on New Year’s, chew carefully! It’s traditional to bake a coin in the loaf; the person who finds it is said to have good luck during the coming year.


Image credit: Vasilopita by Alexander Baxevanis, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

7.) In Swiss homes, they commemorate the richness of the coming year by dropping whipped cream on the floor. I don’t know if this guarantees happiness, but it certainly makes any pets in the house feel very blessed. 

Whipped cream

Image credit: Untitled by Dean Wissing, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

8.) In Belarus, some unmarried women play games to predict who will wed in the next year. The game with the most accurate results rate, involves roosters. Specifically, each woman in the competition has a pile of corn in front of them. Then, they unleash the Kraken! Um, I mean, rooster. The young lady who has the pile of corn from which the rooster snacks first, will be the first to gain a husband in the upcoming year. Or, she’ll at least gain a rooster friend.


You’ve got to ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do you, young lady? 
Image credit: rooster attitude by Tom Woodward, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

9.) Italy is another country that has the tradition of families bringing coin-shaped foods to the table to gain good fortune in the coming year. The Italians’ food of choice to usher in such luck: lentils!


Image credit: Lentil Salad by Lablascovegmenu, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

10.) Eating pork and sauerkraut on January 1 is an old German tradition thought to bring luck in the coming year. This is also a dish on a lot of New Year’s tables in here in Ohio, due to our state’s strong German heritage. It’s definitely a tradition my family celebrated when I was growing up.


Image credit: Untitled by Arnold Gatilao, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

11.) The Chinese invented fireworks—and often include them in their New Year’s celebrations—but many cultures like to kick of the new year with a bang.


Image credit: Fireworks by jeff_golden, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

12.) Though written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in the late 1700s, Auld Lang Syne didn’t become a New Year’s staple until the 1930s when Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo popularized the tune. I don’t know about you, but I still don’t know the lyrics…


Image credit: Toasting Champagne by Waldo Jaquith, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

13.) Blame those crazy 1907 New Yorkers for starting the ball drop tradition. Every year thousands of folks descend upon Time Square and hang out in the cold to see the second the orb reaches the ground. Millions more watch it from the climate-controlled comfort of their living room.

Times Square

Image credit: Times Square Ball from Above by Anthony Quintano, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

14.) The Times Square tradition has spawned many variations throughout the United States. One of best is found in my fair state of Ohio, where an evening of walleye-themed events concludes with the Walleye Drop. The walleye in question is a 600-pound fiberglass behemoth with glowing green eyes that is lowered to street level with the Port Clintonites celebrating the new year. I couldn’t find any good pictures to include here—probably because people are too mesmerized by its fabulousness to snap a decent shot.

Well, I’m off to prepare for my night’s festivities. How are you planning to celebrate?