We might associate New Year’s Eve with the universal popping of champagne, confetti and rowdy parties. The reality is though, that welcoming the new year has always had significance for communities all around the world who celebrate the new year in many different ways. The traditional way of welcoming the new year has stuck around in some places. And like most traditions, some seem more bizarre than others! Here are some of the weirdest traditions practiced on New Year’s Eve around the world.
Weird New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World
New Years in Ecuador: Burning Scarecrows
In Ecuador, the locals like to get the New Year off to a fiery start. When the clock strikes 12, it’s more than just a chance to shout ‘Happy New Year!’ They also burn paper-filled scarecrows or effigies to signify the burning away of any ill fortune or bad things from the old year and to welcome the new one. Some people even burn photographs of things that represent the past year. Whatever brings you good fortune, right?
Smashing Plates: New Years Eve in Denmark
If you happen to be in Denmark on New Year’s Eve and find yourself surrounded by people smashing crockery, don’t worry – you haven’t offended anyone. The Danish save up their unused plates for 31 December, when they then hurl them against the front doors of their friends and family. It’s a sign of affection and New Year wishes; in fact, people who have the most broken plates in front of their doors are considered lucky because it shows they have a lot of loyal friends. Never mind that you now have to clean up all that broken china…
Wearing Colourful Underwear: New Years in South America
Underwear is a big part of the New Year for many countries, particularly in South America such as Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia, among others. The people there believe your fortunes for the New Year ahead are closely linked to your underwear, and that you should wear whichever colour underwear represents the thing you’re hoping to achieve in the coming months.
As a general rule, red or pink underwear brings love, yellow or gold brings wealth and good luck, and white brings peace. Do people wear three pairs of different coloured underwear all at the same time; we wonder?
Eating 12 Grapes: New Years in Spain
Grapes sell out quickly in Spain on New Year’s Eve. Tradition dictates that you must eat a grape with each of the 12 bell strikes at midnight for prosperity in the year ahead and to ward off evil. Known as las doce uvas de la suerte (the 12 grapes of luck), this feat isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, so be careful you don’t choke! Some people also wear red underwear and put a piece of gold jewellery in their champagne, which they drink (the champagne, not the jewellery) after eating the 12 grapes.
Obsessing Over Round Objects: New Years in the Philippines
In the Japan, the New Year is a fresh opportunity to bring prosperity and good fortune into people’s lives. Round things that represent coins and wealth are in great demand come New Year’s Eve, as the locals try to get their hands on as many round objects as they can. Round clothes and accessories, coins, round food items and fruits, even clothing with polka dots on them because the dots are – that’s right – round.
Also, Filipino children often jump up and down as the clock strikes midnight, in the hope that they will grow taller in the coming year.
Ringing Bells 108 Times: New Years in Japan
If you thought eating 12 grapes during the 12 strokes of midnight was hard, be glad you’re not eating grapes for every time a bell rings in Japan to welcome the New Year. At midnight on 31 December in the Land of the Rising Sun, Buddhist temples all across the country ring their bells a whopping 108 times!
The tradition symbolises the 108 human sins according to Buddhist belief, and represents the banishing of the 108 worldly desires in every Japanese citizen. To be precise, the bells are rung 107 times on New Year’s Eve and once past midnight. The Watch Night Bell in Tokyo is a major New Year’s Eve attraction, and the Japanese also believe that ringing the bells will get rid of their sins from the past year.
DIY Fortune Telling: New Years in Finland
Besides finding ways to bring good fortune and wealth into people’s lives, New Year traditions are often also about foreseeing what the year ahead will bring. In Finland, it has long been a tradition to cast molten tin into a container of water on New Year’s Eve, and then see what shape the metal takes after it hardens, to predict the coming months. For example, a heart or ring shape means you’ll find love or a wedding is coming, a ship means you’ll be doing a lot of travelling and a pig shape means you’ll have plenty to eat. It’s good fun; just be careful not to get any molten tin splashed on you by accident.
Happy New Year!