Let’s Talk About New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World!Adam Brinkman
What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? If you don’t have much going on and want to try something new, we have just the thing! Turns out this time of year hasn’t always been about going to parties, drinking champagne, and watching footage of the ball drop in Times Square at midnight—people all around the world have fun and interesting New Year’s Eve traditions, and we want to talk about it!
The Netherlands: Eat Donuts
It’s traditional in the Netherlands to eat oliebollen (pieces of fried dough somewhat similar to donuts) on New Year’s Eve. This comes from an old Germanic tradition of eating them to protect revelers from a goddess known as Perchta the Belly Slitter. She was said to punish anyone who hadn’t taken in enough yuletide cheer by cutting their stomachs open and filling them with trash.
As a result, ancient Germanic tribes were really, really committed to their party guests having a good time and served oliebollen so the Belly Slitter’s sword would slide right off (if she even dared).
Brazil: Go to the Beach
On New Year’s Eve in Brazil, it’s common to see the oceans covered in white flowers and floating candles. These are offerings to Yemaya, a water deity believed to control the seas and given credit for all life coming from her waters. It’s traditional to wear all white and head into the ocean at midnight (don’t worry: it’s summer there) to jump over seven waves while making seven wishes.
Czech Republic: Cut Apples
Predict your future for the new year with this weird trick! On New Year’s Eve in the Czech Republic, it’s traditional to cut an apple in half (top and bottom). If the seeds in the apple core are the shape of a star, that’s good luck on lock for the next year! If the seeds in the apple core are the shape of a cross, someone at the New Year’s Eve party will fall ill in the next year. Oops.
Spain: Eat Grapes
Grape growers in the 1800s had a problem: they weren’t selling enough grapes by the end of the year and were losing money on surplus food going bad. Their solution? Establishing a tradition of eating 12 grapes (one for every bell strike) at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. This was said to bring a year of prosperity and good fortune… and it worked—especially for the grape growers! We’re paraphrasing a bit but this is basically exactly what happened.
India: Burning Man
It’s traditional in Bombay to build an effigy of an old man that is symbolic of the old year (similar to Father Time, the old dude who’s often in drawings with Baby New Year). At midnight, the festival in the street would get even more into the party mood and burn the effigy to symbolize letting go of past grievances to make space for a new year to begin.
This festival is one that can be celebrated across all faiths and ages, which is important for community-building in a cosmopolitan city like Bombay that’s home to people of various faiths that celebrate dozens of festivals throughout the year.
Japan: Eat Soba Noodles
You never had to do much to convince us to indulge in a hot and savory bowl of ramen, but now that we know about this tradition, it’s going to be a fight to stop us!
In Japan, soba noodles (made from buckwheat flour) are thought to signify long life because the noodles are long. The double bonus comes in with the buckwheat, which is especially resilient in harsh conditions and is culturally synonymous with strength. So if you want to live longer and healthier and get those gains, make sure to start the new year with a bowl of soba noodles!
Italy: Wear Red Underwear
Wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve is traditional in Italy, where the color is associated with fertility. While older versions of the tradition were practiced explicitly and exclusively for luck with conceiving, modern practice has drifted from that intention and now red underwear is also worn for more general good luck (no babies required).
Scotland: Answer the Door After Midnight
Hogmanay isn’t just the real-life version of the best holiday in Terry Pratchett’s iconic Discworld series: it’s full of its own obscure and nuanced mythos!
One of the surviving traditions is called “first footing.” The idea is that the first person to cross your threshold after midnight between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will prophesy your luck for the new year.
For the best luck, make sure the person crossing your threshold is a dark-haired man, ideally bringing a gift of shortbread, whiskey, salt, and coal. You might not think of coal as a very good gift, but it was very popular in the 9th century when this tradition began!
Chile: Go to the Graveyard
Chilean culture puts serious emphasis on family—even family who are no longer with us. Many holidays in Chile involve remembering family members who have passed on and keeping their memories alive. It’s in this spirit that New Year’s Eve masses in Chile are held in the cemetery to allow families to include their deceased family members by sitting with their graves.
Russia: Drinking Ashes
We promise it’s not what you’re thinking! As midnight approaches in Russia, it’s traditional to write your wishes or dreams onto a piece of paper, set it alight with a candle, and burn it to ash. Then, put the ash into a glass of champagne and drink it at a minute past midnight. Internalizing your wish literally is supposed to help you manifest your dreams in reality.
If your New Year’s Eve wish is a new Cornhole set—with graphics designed by you!—then there’s no need to drink paper ashes! Simply fill out our custom design request form, and our digital artist will get to work on your design. Imagine bringing one of these out at midnight and surprising your guests with a new game of Cornhole to start off the new year!