New Year’s Eve Traditions from around the World

Across the globe New Year’s Eve is the time where we say goodbye to the past twelve months, where we celebrate all the great things that have happened and resolve to move on from the bad.

A few New Year’s Eve traditions are universally observed.

Making resolutions, for example, has been part of New Year’s activities for centuries, with early Christians believing that January 1st should be used to learn from past mistakes and to make a commitment to improve yourself and your circumstances in the year ahead.

Fireworks are another traditional part of the festivities, harking back to a bygone time when fire and loud noises were believed to banish evil spirits and encourage luck to come to you.

And as midnight strikes on the 31st of December much of the English speaking world will be united in song. Auld Lang Syne (which translates as ‘old long since/times gone by’) might not have the dance routine of Gangnam Style but this Scottish ditty has been a New Year’s favourite since the 18th century. It could be argued that few people know the actual words beyond the first couple of lines, but that doesn’t stop millions belting it out the world over.

Some traditions, on the other hand, are specific to certain locations. While some might seem, well, a little… odd why not give them a go this year and see what luck they bring you in 2013?


If you’d like to know what fate has in store for you in the year ahead you may want to give the Finish tradition of molybdomancy a go. Lead is heated over a stove until liquid and is then thrown into cold water. The lead instantly solidifies and the shape it forms is analysed and used to predict what the next year will bring.


In some South American nations, including Mexico, eating a grape every minute during the 12 minutes before midnight will bring good luck for the whole year. And no, the grapes aren’t in wine form.


The Philippines probably wins the prize for having the most New Year’s Eve traditions. Filipinos believe that by wearing clothes covered in circular patterns (like polka dots) they will attract money in the coming year. Eating circular foods is also encouraged, while throwing coins at midnight is thought to help you rake in more dough in the long run. Plastic horns known as torotot are also blown across the nation in an attempt to frighten off nasty little spirits and malevolent forces. Don’t worry if you don’t have a torotot to hand though, banging on pots and pans is thought to work just as well. Wannabe models might also be interested to know that jumping during the New Year is thought to make you taller.


Guatemalans take making a fresh start on New Year’s Eve to the extreme, after writing down all the bad things that have happened to them over the previous 12 months they burn the list on a bonfire. Probably best done before you’ve made too much of a dent in the champers!


In the US watching the ball drop in Times Square has been an iconic New Year’s Eve moment for over a hundred years. Back in 1907 the ball was constructed of wood an iron. Nowadays it’s a bit more bling, being made of Waterford Crystal and weighing in at over 1000 pounds. The ball begins its decent at 11:59 pm, reaching its destination just as the bells begin to chime.


In Scotland Christmas takes a back seat to Hogmanay, the nation’s enthusiastic New Year’s Eve celebrations. Simple traditions, like ‘first footing’, where neighbours visit each other to give good wishes for the New Year, contrast with mammoth ones, like the all-night Edinburgh street party.


In Japan the New Year, or Oshogatsu, is hugely important and considered as a time of renewal. Bonenkai parties are held in order to say goodbye to any issues of the past year, old resentments are forgiven and homes are cleaned in preparation for a new beginning. At the stroke of midnight gongs in Buddhist temples are struck 108 times, to banish each of the 108 kinds of human weaknesses. So that’s one weakness for chocolate, one weakness for wine…


In Greece January 1st is more commonly known as the Festival of St Basil. St Basil was one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church and in his honour Vassilopitta, or St Basil’s cake, is made and consumed during the New Year’s celebrations. The cake is baked with a coin inside it, whoever gets the coin can expect to have good luck during the coming year.


If you’re a fan of red knickers you might like the Italian tradition of wearing brand new red underwear on New Year’s Eve. Wearing this kind of eye-catching undergarment is thought to make you lucky for the next twelve months.


Argentineans like to see in the New Year by going for a dip in nearby lakes, rivers and public swimming pools. If your nearest large body of water is the Thames we advise you to give this particular tradition a miss!

The Expat Hub would like to wish expats the world over a very happy New Year, however they decide to spend the last few hours of December 31st!

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