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New Year's Eve around the world

by Felicia & NiamhReading time: 5 min.
New Year's Eve around the world
New Year's Eve is one of the only Holidays celebrated in most of the world so it's safe to say it's a pretty special occasion. Around the world cultures celebrate the new year with their own unique traditions. Here's some of our favourite traditions.


Running a race may not be the first thing that comes to mind on New Year's Eve but taking part in a 'San Silvestre' fun run is part of a growing tradition in Spain. Over 200 such 'San Silvestre' runs take place across Spain on December 31st with the biggest races held in Madrid and Barcelona. In Spain it is traditional to eat 12 grapes – one at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Each grape represents good luck for one month of the coming year. Be careful it's not as easy as it sounds make sure you pick small grapes! The city authorities organise music and fireworks at main squares to ring in the new year. Many coastal resorts across Spain organize a first swim of the year when residents brave the cold temperatures and collectively plunge into the sea. It's a fine way to get rid of a hangover!

Czech Republic

The Czech like to look to their future around New Year’s, usually with the help of an apple. The fruit is cut in half and the shape of the core determines the person’s fate. If it’s a cross, mischief is on the way, but if it’s a star, you can expect happiness. In Czech Republic New Year's day is the laziest day of the year. They have a saying “As you do on New Year you will do all year’. Think carefully about your activities or they might follow you the whole new year. People using avoid doing any housework and have a very lazy day instead


On New Year's Eve in Brazil it is traditional to wear all white. The white symbolises peace and prosperity and is believed to bring a peaceful and prosperous year. However if you want to stand out of the crowd, you can add colourful accessories. On New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll see a woman rising out of the ocean, portraying the Queen of the Ocean, Goddess Iemanjá.

Surrounded by 2 million people, the explosion of fireworks overhead and the rhythms of samba music, perhaps the most beautiful part of the celebrations is the quietest. Locals go to the ocean’s edge and throw white flowers and send candles floating out into the ocean as offerings to the Ocean Goddess. These offerings are made in the hope that Iemanjá will grant their New Year’s wishes. If your offering comes back to you, take this as a sign that she is not pleased and will not be granting your wish.

To get around this problem, you will often see Brazilians send out their offerings in small toy boats to better ensure that Iemanjá will accept their offerings. In honor of Iemanjá, when the fireworks display is over, many people a jump seven waves making a wish with each one. Rio and life are tied to the ocean so as you leave the waves, make sure not to look back as it is believed that this can anger Iemanjá and that’s the last thing you would want to do


On the morning of New Year's Eve greek children go from house to house singing carols or kalanta in greek. This is supposed to bring good luck and fortune in the New Year.

On New Year’s Day, it is  tradition to exchange gifts as the Greeks believe that you are more likely to have a prosperous year ahead if you receive gifts on the first day of the year. New Year's day coincides with the Agios Vasilis (the Greek equivalent of Saint Nicolas) celebrations, so children usually receive money from their parents. People usually also hang onions or garlic on the door on new year's eve to represent growth and prosperity in the new year


New Year’s Eve - or Capodanno has some interesting traditions in Italy. Everyone must wear red underwear, that’s a rule! Make sure somebody gives you fancy red underwear for Christmas. That’s the only way you can have a good, lucky and loving New Year!

The Italians eat lentils, cotechino, which is a ground and flavored pork sausage made with a natural pork casing (aka, the intestines), and grapes. Eating a full plate of lentils, followed by grapes, the last night of the year is supposed to bring wealth and good luck. Watch your heads! According to an old tradition, people are supposed to break or to throw old things, like cups, plates and various objects, out  the window, in order to send away the negative vibes of the previous year


In Colombia it is traditional to wear yellow underwear to guarantee happiness and love in the new year. The underwear has to be new or it won't work!! In Colombia, if you want to have a New Year full of travel and adventure it's traditional to walk around the block at midnight with a suitcase, don't worry, it can be empty! In Colombian culture it is believed that your first step after midnight should be taken with your right foot: if your first step is with your left foot it is believed your year will be full of bad decisions and negative energy.


In Denmark there is a tradition of smashing a plate against a friend’s front door. The more plate you find outside your house the more good luck you will receive in the New Year. It is also tradition to jump off a chair to symbolise a leap into the new year


In Scotland, New Year's Eve is so important that there's even an official name for it: Hogmanay. On this day the scottish have the tradition of first footing. According to Scottish beliefs, the first person who crosses through the threshold of your house after midnight on New Year's Day should be a dark-haired male.

This symbolises good luck and success. Traditionally, these men come bringing  gifts of shortbread and whiskey. But why dark-haired men? The tradition comes from when Scotland was being invaded by the Vikings! Back then the last thing you wanted to see at your doorstep was a light-haired man carrying an axe.


For the Chinese New Year people paint their front door red or place red cutouts on the windows. In chinese culture this is supposed to bring good luck and fortune for the coming year. Children receive money in red pockets also the money is supposed to transfer fortune from the elders to the children.

Chinese New Year is also known as the spring festival as it marks the end of the coldest days. It has no specific date but is instead calculated using the lunar calendar. Fireworks and used to scare away monsters and bad luck. Fireworks are set off at midnight for this purpose and set off again in the morning to welcome the new year and good luck. It is also considered bad luck to shower on New Year's Day in case you wash away good luck.


At the annual Años Viejos celebrations, people burn scarecrows at midnight. These scarecrows are are filled with paper or sawdust and often resemble a public figure such as a corrupt politician or a celebrity. This tradition originated in Guayaquil in 1895 when a yellow fever epidemic hit the town and coffins packed with the deceased’s clothes were burned for purification. The Ecuadorians also burn photographs from the previous year in order to start the new year fresh.

Interested to learn more about customs and traditions in other countries? Why not read our previous blog on Christmas celebrations around the world.

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