New Year Traditions Around the World


More New Year traditions are celebrated around the world than any other holiday. With 39 different local times, it takes 26 hours for the New Year to cover the time zones across the globe. New Year traditions echo our resolutions, hopes and dreams for another beginning, and our celebrations are reminiscent of this sentiment.

While many of us are familiar with the ‘Ball Drop’ in New York’s Times Square, how does the rest of the world celebrate New Year? Read on to learn more about unique New Year traditions in different countries!

Argentina/ Turkey

Seekers of romance wear red or pink lingerie as part of New Year traditions, hoping that they will soon meet their special someone.


In Austria’s New Year traditions, suckling pigs are considered good fortune. They are served alongside edible pigs on the dinner table.


Kaliady is one of Belarus’ most festive New Year traditions. The festival involves unmarried women predicting their future marriage prospects. In one game, items are hidden in a married woman’s house for her unmarried friends to find. Finding bread signifies a rich husband, while a ring means he will be very handsome. In another game, a pile of corn is placed before each woman and a rooster is let loose. The pile the rooster approaches reveals the woman to be married first.


As part of New Year traditions, coins are baked into sweets and whoever finds one is guaranteed good luck.


In Brazil, lentils signify wealth and prosperity. Hence, New Year traditions include lentils as part of food preparations (example: legume-like soups and rice). People also wear white clothes and arrive at beaches to throw flowers into the ocean.


New Year traditions in Chile are truly unique! The town mayor of Talca opens the graveyard after late night mass. With classical music playing, people bring candles and gather around the graves of their dead relatives.


Lion and dragons dance in streets while people make offerings at temples. Red envelopes containing money are given to children (probably one of their favorite New Year traditions).


I am a big fan of Columbia’s New Year traditions. People walk the streets with suitcases in the hope of a travel filled new year. These folks are after my own heart!


Old dishes are thrown at the doors of family and friends. The more dishes outside your door, the more well wishers you have. How many New Year traditions do you know where you are allowed to break things?  


The Gulf emirate’s New Year traditions are grand and over-the-top, just like everything else it does. Fireworks light up the city skyline at the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. This year, Dubai set a new world record by decking the Burj Khalifa in spectacular laser lighting synchronized with music.


The first guest is the bearer of good fortune provided he fulfills some requirements. He should be male, should enter through the front door and should carry some traditional gifts like a loaf , a drink or coal. (I don’t think I qualify for their New Year traditions!)


Paper scarecrows and photographs from last year are burned. Besides, destroying your ex’s photos are always great New Year traditions. 


Men eat seven times in order to gain the strength of seven men. I know the common sparrow can eat 4 times its weight….but humans?

Germany/ Finland

This is one of those super mysterious New Year traditions. Molten lead is poured into cold water. The shape that it assumes predicts your destiny in the new year. Heart shapes represent marriage, round shapes indicate good luck, anchor shapes mean you need help, and a cross signifies someone’s death.


New Year traditions that involve freshly baked bread are an instant hit with me 🙂 In Greece, a bread is baked with a coin hidden in the dough. The first slice is offered to God, the second to the family head, and the third for the house. If the coin is found in the third slice, spring will arrive early. Also the one to find the coin is blessed with extra fortune.


India is a diverse country with multi-ethnic communities and cultures, home to many different New Year traditions. I personally celebrate Diwali. Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom Ayodhya. People decorate their homes with diyas (lighted lamps), wear new clothes, prepare different sweets and burst fireworks. Many perform Lakshmi Puja for prosperity and good luck. 


New Year is celebrated with pastries called bannocks, and throwing bread at walls to drive away spirits. Again, pastries make great New Year traditions. 


The Japanese New Year or Oshogatsu  involves cleaning the entire house, cooking rice cakes called mochis, and resolving financial debts. Buddhist New Year traditions require ringing the bells 108 times.


Eating any ring shaped eats indicates “coming full circle”. Indulging in fritters called olie bollen are common New Year traditions. 


Muñecos or effigies of celebrities are burnt. New Year traditions are probably not a big thing with stars here!


One of Peru’s New Year traditions is the Takanakuy Festival. It is about settling past differences through fist fights, so that you can start the new year with a clean slate. Another custom is placing three potatoes under a chair and choosing one randomly. The peeled potato denotes no money, half-peeled a regular year, and unpeeled a great financial boom.


Similar to the New Year traditions in the Netherlands, the shape ’round’ is considered auspicious in the Philippines. This means eating grapes, carrying coins, and sporting polka dots. Keeping the doors and windows of houses open is also considered important for the entry of good energy.

Puerto Rico

People throw buckets of water out of their windows to rid their homes of any spirits. Clearly, taking a stroll comes with consequences in Puerto Rican New Year traditions!


Dancing in bear costumes and tossing coins in rivers. But the best is trying to hear your animals talk. If you do hear them, you’re doomed to bad luck in the new year. What are the chances? 


Drinking alcohol always ranks high among everyone’s favorite New Year traditions. In Russia, wishes are written on a piece of paper which is then burnt. The ashes are placed in a glass of champagne, and are consumed right before midnight. 


Hogmanay celebrations include parading through streets while swinging balls of fire. There is also ‘first footing’, where the first person to visit in the new year has to bring a gift for fortuity.


Leave it to Siberia to come up with the world’s most extreme New Year traditions. Professional divers cut a hole in frozen Lake Baikal, and dive to the lake’s bottom carrying a New Year’s tree. Amateurs prefer jumping into frozen lakes with tree trunks.

South Africa

With furniture flying out of windows and pedestrians getting hit, police have been forced to check South Africa’s New Year traditions!


Another one of those “round” New Year traditions. In Spain, 12 grapes signifying the 12 months are eaten at midnight, one for each chime of the clock during the countdown towards the new year.

Sri Lanka

Aluth Avurudu or the Sinhalese New Year is celebrated by playing the drum Raban, bursting firecrackers, and preparing milk rice kiribath, oil cakes kavum and sweetmeats kokis.


Ice cream is regarded as a symbol of richness and is dropped on the floors. (I’m more of a fan of New Year traditions that involve eating ice cream!)


The Buddhist New Year Songkran includes people throwing buckets of water at each other, and smearing others with gray talc.


Here’s an example of New Year traditions geared toward love birds and couples. St. Mark’s square in Venice is the venue for mass kissing on New Year’s. 


At the first chime, the back door is opened and closed, indicating the exit of the old year and its misfortunes. At the 12th chime, the door is opened to welcome the new year.

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