New Year’s traditions vary wildly from culture to culture, although almost all include the Three F’s: food, fun and fireworks. Oh, yeah, and ways to assure good luck in the coming year. Whatever your traditions, may your New Year (and decade) be blessed. Because blessings beat luck hands-down! Don’t miss the summary of unusual traditions below.
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- South Africans party all night into New Year’s Day. When the church bell chimes at midnight, everyone cheers and many throw refrigerators from balconies!
- Brazilians eat seven pomegranate seeds to assure wealth and seven grapes to assure abundance in everything else. Wearing red underwear also helps!
- Siberians plant volkas, New Year’s Trees, under frozen lakes, symbolizing the coming of Father Frost, and the promise of a new life.
- In Denmark, friends and relatives jump off chairs and break dishes on doorsteps. The bigger the pile, the more friends and happiness you’ll have in the coming year.
- Chileans eat three spoonfuls of lentils: one for love, one for health, and one for wealth. They also place a luca (1000 peso note) in their right shoe to multiply wealth in the coming year.
- The Chinese, once plagued by a hungry monster called Nian, make loud noises and decorate things in red to scare it away. Nian is now the word for “year.” Oh, and there are dragons, can’t forget the dragons.
- In Netherlands on New Year’s Eve, Oudejaarslot, people buy lottery tickets and munch oliebol, Dutch doughnuts, at oliebollenkraam stands while waiting for the jackpot to be announced.
- Ecuadorians and Columbians burn scarecrows at midnight. Columbians also place three potatoes under their beds: one peeled, one unpeeled, and one half-peeled. When the clock strikes midnight, they reach under and grab one. A peeled potato means money problems, unpeeled means abundance, and half-peeled means “who knows.”
- The Spanish eat Twelve Grapes at Midnight. If they can eat all 12 in 12 seconds, they’ll have 12 months of good luck.
- The Irish bang bread against their walls on New Year’s Eve to chase away evil spirits and attract good luck.
- Peruvians celebrate (?) the New Year at the annual Takanakuy Festival by beating each other up!
- The Swiss toast the new year with ice cream cones, then drop them on the ground at midnight, guaranteeing abundance—and more ice cream—in the coming year!
- USA: the famous Times Square ball drop began when fireworks were outlawed in 1907. Also, many African-Americans eat black-eyed peas and collard greens to assure happiness in the coming year.
- In Haiti, joumou, a pumpkin soup once forbidden to slaves, is eaten in honor of the independence they fought for and won in 1804.
- In the Philippines, round is the ticket: Round fruits are eaten, balls and coins are handed out, and polka-dotted clothes are worn for luck.
- The Scottish New Year, Hogmanay, involves lots of Vikings with torches, lots parties with haggis, and other actually edible things. The first party guest to arrive gets cakes or, better yet, a bottle of Scotch!
- Ethiopians, far more soberly celebrate Enkutatash, the Coptic Christian New Year, with worship, processions and feasts, and end with torch-burning and hymn-singing on New Year’s Eve.
Whatever your tradition…