The New Year is one of the few occasions that is celebrated in nearly every country around the world. New Year festivities in different countries may seem similar on the surface, but amid all the fireworks and parties, every culture has a unique take on welcoming the coming year.
In this post, Tree Classics takes a look at some of the most interesting New Year’s Eve traditions around the world.
One of the most interesting of the country’s many traditions is the act of foretelling the next year’s fortunes using potatoes. Three potatoes are placed under a chair or sofa–one peeled, one half peeled and one unpeeled. At midnight, one potato is chosen at random, which forecasts the state of next year’s finances, with the peeled potato signifying no money, half-peeled a regular year, and unpeeled a great bounty in the year ahead.
The Philippines has several New Year’s Eve traditions such as wearing polka dot clothing for prosperity, keeping pockets and wallets filled with coins and money, and opening all doors and windows (including all drawers, cupboards, and cabinets) at home to allow good luck to enter.
A big part of the preparations in the Philippines involves coming up with 12 round fruits to serve on the last eve of the year. Ideally, there should be 12 different kinds of fruit, each signifying a month of the year, and therein lies the challenge. There are a limited number of round fruits in some regions so some settle with non-circular fruits to complete the 12 kinds.
Throwing furniture out of the window has become a tradition in the South African city of Johannesburg–one that local authorities have been keen to stamp out in the face of rising pedestrian injuries. A police crackdown on the practice was nearly successful in eliminating it last New Year’s, though rising cost of living in the city may have also had something to do with curbing the expensive tradition.
Spanish tradition holds that eating 12 grapes just before midnight will bring good fortune for all 12 months of the upcoming year. One grape is eaten at every chime of the bell, or after announcing each number counting down from 12 to 1. The custom often sparks a contest of who can cram the grapes into their mouth fastest.
Water is a valued element in Puerto Rico, which is why it’s part of many of their New Year traditions. To drive away evil spirits, they throw a bucket of water out the window as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. For those living near lakes or other bodies of water, they ward off evil spirits by falling backward into the waves as the clock strikes 12.
To bring good luck for the New Year, Brazilians are known to wear white during the festivities. Brazil’s beautiful Copacabana Beach is also part of the tradition, with many Brazilians making the trip so they can watch the fireworks and throw white flowers into the sea waters. Making a wish is customary, with the flowers acting as offerings to Iemanjá, patron spirit of fishermen and shipwreck survivors.
Before midnight, Russians set the table, sit down, and offer a farewell to the past year. Very often families turn their TV’s on to listen to the President’s speech on New Year’s Eve.
The President’s speech is usually followed by chimes from the big clock in Kremlin. According to tradition, a wish can be made while the chimes are sounding for the New Year. One way to do it is by writing down your wish on a piece of paper, burning it, then dipping the ashes into a glass of champagne to be consumed as the clock strikes midnight.
With the many varying New Year’s Eve traditions each country has, this occasion is an excellent example of how different our cultures can be. However, it’s also an example of how, despite the different ways in which we welcome the New Year, all of us endeavor for the same thing—prosperity and good fortune for the whole year.
Happy New Year, everyone! What New Year’s Eve traditions do you have at home? Share them with us in the comments below.