Many New Year customs that we take for granted actually date from ancient times. This year, ring out the old and ring in the new with a New Year tradition—or two!
On New Year’s in Belarus, single women place piles of corn on the ground in front of them, and then a rooster is set loose. The first woman whose pile of corn the rooster approaches will be the next to get married.
In Brazil, partiers wear white on New Year’s to scare away bad spirits. Brazilians also jump over seven waves — one for each day of the week — while making seven New Year’s wishes. Those who aren’t near the beach jump three times on their right foot. Brazilians also offer a tribute of flowers to Iemanja, the goddess of water.
In Bolivia, people will cook a coin into a cake. The person who finds the coin while eating the cake gets good luck in the next year.
Chileans looking to make a lot of money over the next year will eat a spoonful of lentils on New Year’s Eve. In the Chilean city of Talca, locals will spend the night in the cemetery with their dead relatives.
Want to spend the next year traveling? Do as the Colombians do: walk around the block once with your empty suitcase.
Danes throw dishes at the front doors of their close friends. It’s considered lucky to have a lot of broken dishes at the foot of your door at the end of the night, as it’s a sign of a lot of friends.
In many South American countries (also Bolivia, Venezuela, and Brazil) you’re supposed to wear colorful underwear on New Year’s Eve. Wear yellow undies if you want to make lots of money next year, and red undies if you want to fall in love.
8. El Salvador
An hour before midnight, Salvadorans crack open an egg into a glass of water. They let it sit as the year changes, and then the next morning, they’ll try and interpret the shape of the egg, and what it might foretell in the New Year.
Traditionally, Estonians try to eat seven times on New Year’s Day, to ensure strength and plenty of food in the New Year.
Similar to El Salvador’s egg tradition, Finns throw molten tin into a glass of water, and then try to interpret the shape of the tin as an omen for what will happen in the New Year.
Germans watch the British comedy sketch Dinner For One every New Year’s. The sketch is so popular that its catchphrase, “Same procedure as every year,” has now entered the German lexicon.
Single women in Ireland sleep with a mistletoe under their pillow on New Year’s in the hopes of finding a husband in the next year.
In Rome, divers jump from the Cavour Bridge into the Tiber River. The tradition started back in 1946.
In Japan, people dress up as the zodiac animal of the upcoming year (2015 is the Year of the Sheep), and attend a temple where the bell is rung 108 times — a lucky number.
Panamanians like to burn effigies on New Year’s of anyone famous. The idea is that the effigies — called muñecos — are representative of the old year, and you are burning them to move on.
Residents of Chumbivilcas Province in Peru celebrate the festival of Takanakuy. The festival — which happens on December 25 — involves dancing and, most notably, fighting. People will get into fistfights to settle old beefs so that the slate is clean when the New Year rolls in.
In the Philippines, it’s considered lucky to eat round foods on New Year’s. This is because round shapes are supposed to represent coins — so eating a lot of round foods means you’ll make a lot of money in the New Year. Children in the Philippines will also jump up and down as the New Year rings in, in the hopes that it will make them taller in the coming year.
Romanians participate in a 2,000-year-old tradition where a young man dresses up in a bear costume and dances around to scare off bad spirits.
Possibly the best (and least safe) celebration is Hogmanay, in which residents swing fireballs around their heads. The fire is said to bring sun and purification in the New Year. Scots also partake in “First-Footing,” where the first person to step over the threshold of a home brings good luck. Tall, dark men are the most lucky; red-haired and blonde men and women are less lucky. First-footers are also supposed to bring whisky and bread into the home.
In Belgrade, it’s tradition for an Eastern Orthodox priest to throw a crucifix into the icy waters of the Danube. The first person to dive in and retrieve it will be blessed with a healthy year.
In Siberia, divers cut a hole into the ice on Lake Baikal and dive to the bottom of the lake with a tree trunk to “plant a tree” at the bottom of the lake.
At midnight, Spaniards try to eat a single grape for each toll of the bell at midnight.
In Thailand, for April’s Southeast Asian New Year, people throw buckets of water on each other, and smear each other with talc.
24. United States
The most universal tradition in the United States is have someone to kiss when the New Year rolls in at midnight. The tradition is very nice if you’re in a relationship, but can be super depressing if you’re not.
In Vietnam, “Little New Year” is celebrated on January 23 in honor of the Kitchen God. Because the Kitchen God is said to ride to heaven on a carp to report on each family on the day of the festival, families keep a bowl of carps set aside as they eat a meal and decorate the Kitchen God’s altar. www.insideplants.net