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New year’s eve around the world

While we enjoy counting down from ten, popping the fizz and doing a questionable rendition of Auld Lang Syne to ring in the New Year, traditions in other areas are just as peculiar. And after what has been a different kind of year, why not end it with a celebration to match? Here’s a round-up of our favourite New Year’s customs from all corners of the world. Have a read and find yours.


Typically revelers congregate around Puerta del Sol in Madrid with a glass of cava and 12 grapes. At midnight, they eat a grape with each strike of the clock, signifying good luck for each month of the coming year.


Belarusian single women are known to place their fate into the hands (or claws?) of a rooster as a New Year’s tradition. Sitting in a circle, the women place a plate of corn in front of them. The rooster is then left to take his pick of peck, and whichever plate (and woman) he chooses is expected to be the first to marry.


In Brazilian beach cities, ordinarily NYE involves heading down to the sea after midnight, jump over seven waves and throw flowers into the water while making a wish. This is supposed to bring good luck and fortune in the future. And it all sounds pretty fun too!


‘Lead-pouring’ is a New Year’s custom in Finland, where molten lead is dropped into cold water, and where the shapes created are said to reveal your fortune for the year to come. A ball for instance, means that luck will roll your way. A heart or a ring on the other hand represents a wedding, while a ship predicts travel.


On New Year’s Eve in Greece, an onion is hung on front doors to symbolise the rebirth of the new year. The best part? Parents then tend to wake up their children by tapping them on the head with this door-hung vegetable.


Many Germans will celebrate the new year by eating ‘pfannkuchens’ or donuts filled with jam or liquor. As a practical joke, some of the donuts are filled with mustard which is seen as bad luck.

South America

In Colombia, one custom is to walk around the block at the stroke of midnight… with an empty suitcase! This is said to make sure that the coming year is full of travel and adventures (fingers crossed for 2021). Some families do it together and it’s popular with newlyweds.

Across South America, the colour of your underwear on NYE is said to help bring in love or money for the coming year. Bolivians are fans of bright yellow undies to increase fortune, while in Mexico red is popular for attracting love and happiness after midnight. 


Some believe that people should eat seven, nine, or twelve times on New Year’s Eve (tapas anyone?). These numbers are known as carrying luck and it’s believed that for every meal consumed, the person will gain the strength of the same number of people in the following year.


No one does Hogmanay like the Scots, where the tradition of first-footing (visiting a neighbour bearing gifts of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky) still takes place. Oh, and dark-haired first-footers are said to bring more luck – throwback to the days that blonde-haired vikings were to be avoided.


The most important holiday in the Japanese calendar, NYE involves an array of customs and celebrations. The most fun-sounding one being the ‘bōnenkai’ (year-forgetting) parties that typically take place during December. Who’s up for some much needed year-forgetting?


Find yourself a New Year’s tradition that doesn’t involve heavy drinking, and head to Mountain Ash in South Wales. Ordinarily a 5k race is held each year in tribute to legendary Welsh runner Guto Nyth Brân. Ever-growing in popularity, 2012 saw Olympic and Paralymic stars Dai Greene and Samantha Bowen join the fun.


Throughout the year, Danes save their old china only to throw them by the dozen at the doorsteps of family friends as part of their New Year’s celebrations. The bigger the pile of broken dishes outside your house, the more popular you are. Who needs Twitter followers?!


As the Turkish ring in the New Year, it’s tradition to sprinkle salt on their front door step in hopes to bring peace and abundance to their home or business.


Circles are considered sacred in the Philippines, and they feature prominently around NYE in a range of ways. Many people wear clothes with polka dots, display and eat round fruits and toss coins into pans. They hope that doing this will bring them prosperity in the next year.

Feeling peckish after all that reading? Check out our party food ideas for NYE.

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