Everyone knows our typical New Year’s celebration and ritual. We go out, to dinner or a party, have a few glasses of champagne, and wish each other a Happy New Year as the ball drops at Times Square in NYC. But what about the rest of the world (thanks to Fodor’s)?
But first, a question: Which country celebrates the New Year first? Answer below**
In Spain, they celebrate the Twelve Grapes of Luck. Eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the year for good luck and prosperity. But you must eat one grape at each strike of midnight!. The tradition goes back to 1909, and I would not be averse to washing it down with a glass of bubbly.
Wear colorful undies in Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, or anywhere in Latin America. Tradition says red brings love, yellow brings prosperity and success, white brings peace and harmony, and green signifies well-being and nature. In Turkey, red panties are handed out for good luck. Nothing was said as to which sex is involved. Nor was anything said about going panty-less!!!
Pouring lead in Germany. No, you gun lovers, not what you think! The people melt small pieces of lead in a spoon over a candle, then pour the liquid into cold water. The bizarre shapes from the Bleigießen (lead pouring) are supposed to reveal what the year ahead will bring. If the lead forms a ball, luck will roll one’s way, while the shape of a crown means wealth; a cross signifies death and a star will bring happiness.
Leave it to the Danes for breaking a plate or two. Their New Year’s Eve tradition is to throw plates and dishes against friend’s and neighbor’s front doors. It’s a bit of a popularity contest as the bigger the pile of broken china is the next morning, the more friends and good luck you’ll have in the coming year.
In Ecuador, people build scarecrow dolls of politicians and set them on fire. I like this one the best so far!!! Burning the año viejo
(old year) is meant to destroy all the bad things from the last year and cleanse for the new. The scarecrows are made from old clothes stuffed with newspaper or sawdust and a mask is fitted at the end. The Ecuadorian tradition possibly originated in Guayaquil
in 1895 when a yellow fever epidemic hit the town, and coffins packed with clothes of the deceased were burnt for purification.
Crossing over the Pacific, the Philippines does an interesting thing with money. The locals believe that surrounding themselves with round things (to represent coins) will bring money or fortune. As a result, clothes with polka dots are worn and round food is eaten. To really push Fortuna, coins are kept in pockets and constantly jangled, believed to keep the money flowing. Interestingly, my parents or grandparents always told us that jangling coins in our pockets meant we were poor, and that only Filipinos did this!
I would Scotland to have a celebration centered on golf, like hitting a golf ball into the sea at the stroke of midnight. But no! In Scottish folklore, the “first-foot,” also known as quaaltagh or qualtagh, is the first person crossing the threshold after midnight. A tall, dark-haired male with gifts like coins, coal, bread, salt, and a “wee dram” of whiskey, is thought to bring the best luck for the house. The tradition probably dates back to the Viking days when big, blond strangers (commonly armed with axes and swords) at the door meant trouble, and in some places, first footing by a fair-haired male is still regarded as unlucky.
Want to get rid of things and start the new year fresh?? In Naples and Johannesburg, people throw everything from toasters to fridges off the balcony! Of course, much like here, it symbolizes a fresh start to the New Year. Small and soft objects are best used to prevent serious injury.
Romania, the home of the famous gymnasts, like Nadia, the tradition is quite old. Dancers dress up in furs and wooden masks depicting goats, horses, or bears, then dance from house to house to ward off evil spirits. The dance of the bear is the most popular. According to pre-Christian folklore, if a bear enters somebody’s house, it brings prosperity, health, and good fortune.
Though not one of my favorite places, Venice has perhaps the friendliest of all traditions. On New Year’s Eve in Piazza San Marco, tens of thousands of locals and tourists gather for fireworks, a light show (which sees “hearts” raining down), and “a kiss in Venice.” The evening is all about love and your loved ones, so celebrate with a proper smooch and welcome the new year with happiness in your heart.
If you are stuck in Boise, you just know the mighty potato is going to have a big role on NYE. People in Boise drop a giant spud from the sky. Perhaps it is Spudbob, SquareTater?? More than 40,000 spectators turn up to see the internally lit, 400-pound “GlowTato.” Other New Year’s Eve drop-sites in the US include Brasstown, N.C. (a possum), Bethlehem, Penn. (Peep – a 200-pound local marshmallow candy) and Port Clinton, Ohio (a giant fish called Wylie the Walleye).
I know about most of the NYE traditions in Japan, but this one is new to me. At midnight, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells 108 times to dispel the 108 evil passions all human beings have, according to Buddhism. Japanese believe that joyanokane, the ringing of the bells, will cleanse them from their sins of the previous year. Traditionally, 107 bells are rung on the last day of the year and the 108th in the new year. Many people eat buckwheat noodles called toshikoshi soba on New Year’s Eve to symbolize the wish for a long life. (I have done that, see photo above)
Where is the worst place to spend New Year’s Eve? Times Square in NYC, anywhere really cold, any “singles” event, or on any body of water with waves!
I am not the biggest Vegas fan, but check this out: Vegas does New Year’s Eve big: The Bellagio alone expects to pop 900 bottles of champagne while the Aria will serve 1,600 plates of filet mignon and 15 pounds of caviar!
Whatever you do, stay safe, and do not drive if you are drinking. We prefer to stay home, or go out for an EARLY dinner. Mostly, we want you to have a healthy and happy New Year!!! Usually, at least as an older adult, I rarely stay up until midnight. Now, in my younger days, I can tell you some great stories……
someday (but not yet!). But there is something special about wiping the slate clean, tossing the monthly calendars, and starting fresh.
**the answer: Sydney, Australia receives the lion’s share of media attention for having one of the first celebrations of the new year. However, Tonga is the very first country to ring in the new year, a full three hours ahead of Sydney. Made up of more than 170 South Pacific islands, the main island and home to the Royal Palace is Tongatapu, a coral island with plenty of sandy beaches. Go for snorkeling, island hopping and sea kayaking in the protected lagoon. Also known as Kiritimati Island, Christmas Island is the biggest island in Kiribati and the first inhabited location in the world to experience the New Year.