HAPPY NEW YEAR! A Summary of New Year’s Traditions from Around the World

Christine J. Flores, CBA

While some people find that Christmas is the best time of the year, I generally look forward to the New Year! It’s a time for a fresh start and goal setting.  The celebration doesn’t have to be big, but welcoming in the new year is definitely a cause for celebration.

The new year has been celebrated in many ways in different parts of the world, and at different times.  Making noise seems to be a popular way to ring in the new year around the world.

  • In Thailand, it was once a tradition to fire guns to frighten off demons
  • In China, firecrackers fought off the forces of darkness.
  • In Denmark, they throw plates and glasses against the neighbor’s front door to banish bad spirits
  • In Ecuador, it is tradition to burn the effigies of famous people to destroy bad ‘juju” from the previous year and start anew.
  • In the early American colonies, the sound of pistol shots rang through the air. Today, many Americans watch the ball drop in New York’s Times Square.
  • In many countries, people wait for the church bells or chimes of the clock towers to ring in the new year.

Many New Year’s traditions involve food.  Here are a few noteworthy options:

  • In Spain, people attempt to eat twelve grapes during the twelve strokes of midnight. It is believed that good luck comes to those who succeed before the chimes stop.
  • In the southern states, black-eyed peas and pork are thought to bring good luck.
  • In Scotland, Hogmanay is celebrated. Scots also hold bonfire ceremonies where people parade while swinging giant fireballs on poles.  Fireworks are also part of the celebration.  “First Footing” is still common in Scotland.  The first person to cross the threshold into one’s home, the first footer, indicates the year to come.  If the first footer is tall and dark, the year will be a good one.  Welcoming friends and strangers alike with warm hospitality is the spirit of Hogmanay!
  • Eating a ring-shaped treat, such as a doughnut, symbolizes coming full circle and leads to good luck. In Dutch homes, fritters are served.
  • The Irish enjoy pastries called Bannocks.
  • In India and Pakistan, rice promises prosperity.
  • Jewish New Year, known as Rosh Hashana, is celebrated at a different time of year. Apples dipped in honey are a favorite New Year’s treat.
  • The Swiss drop dollops of whipped cream on the floor, symbolizing the richness of the year to come.

Most people think of champagne when they think of a New Year’s celebration.  But some countries have their own traditional beverages.

  • Wassail is a punch-like drink served in parts of England. The drink is named after the Gaelic term for ‘good health.”
  • In Scotland, the hot pint is served. Traditionally the Scots drank to each others’ prosperity and offered this warm drink to neighbors with a small gift.
  • In Spain, they drink Cava, a sparkling white wine, while toasting in the New Year.

However, you welcome the new year, we hope that you will be celebrating with family and friends.

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