After much research and help from my travel friends…..
Here are a few of the unique ways that others celebrate the New Year:
Ireland-One Irish custom that is to take a large loaf of Christmas bread or cake outside the house and hammer it against the closed doors and windows. This is done to drive out any misfortune and let happiness in. (Thank you to Andrew, the Brooklyn Nomad for sharing this family tradition.)
Ecuador-Effigies, typically made of old clothes and stuffed with sawdust and firecrackers, are burned in New Year’s bonfires. The effigies heads are typically made of paper and shaped to look like celebrities, politicians, and others in representation of the old year. These effigies are then burnt, which is said to drive away evil spirits.
Finland-Folks predict their fortunes for the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water and interpreting the shape the metal takes after it hardens. A heart or ring shape means a wedding, a ship signifies travel, and a pig means lots of good food.
Hungary-Similarly to Ecuador, in Hungary, they burn effigies or a scapegoat known as, “Jack Straw,” which represents the evil and misfortunes of the past year. Jack Straw is carried around the village before being burnt on the Eve of the New Year. On the New Year morning, people eat cabbage soup and roasted pig. It is said that both are meant to bring good luck for the coming year.
Philipines-Round shapes, which represent coins, symbolize prosperity. In Filipino homes, there are heaps of round fruits on tables. In Fact, some folks eat precisely a dozen fruits at midnight. Also, Polka dots are thought to bring good luck, being round and all, and are quite prominent. People also make loud noises by blowing on cardboard or plastic horns, banging on pots and pans, or by igniting firecrackers at the stroke of midnight, in the belief that it scares away evil spirits and forces.
Belarus-Unmarried women play games to predict who will get hitched in the new year. In one game a pile of corn is put in front of each woman and a rooster is let loose. Whatever pile he approaches first shows which woman will be the first to marry.
Denmark-Old dishes are saved all year to throw them at the homes where their friends live on New Year’s Eve. It is a good sign to find your door heaped with a pile of broken dishes as it is a symbol that you have many friends.
Portugal-Like their Iberian neighbors, the Portuguese pick and eat twelve grapes from a bunch as the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve. This is done to ensure twelve happy months in the coming year.
Scotland-On what they call Hogmanay, “First footing” (the first foot or visitor in the house after midnight) is still common in Scotland for New Year’s celebration. To ensure good luck for the house, the first foot should bring symbolic coal, shortbread, and/or whisky.
Japan-New Year’s Day, a symbol of renewal, is one of the most important holidays in Japan. At midnight on December 31st, the Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times in order to dismiss 108 different types of human weaknesses. New Year’s Day itself is a day of joy in which no work is to be done. The children receive small gifts with money inside known as ‘otoshidamas‘.
Mexico-Mexicans, not unlike the Spanish or Portuguese, down a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the clock during the New Year’s countdown, while making a wish with each one. On New Year’s Eve, those who want to find love in the new year wear red underwear and yellow if they want money. Other traditions include sweeping the dirt out and taking luggage outside as a symbol of future trips. (Thank you for your tips on the 12 grapes, TransAmericas!)
Italy-Similarly to some of the countries mentioned above such as Mexico, red underwear as a New Year’s symbol of good luck for the coming year. From Traveling Anna, I received good inside “la famiglia” information on “Il Capodanno,” or New Year’s in Italy. Anna added that La Festa di San Silvestro, 12/31, is a huge feast with beans and pork, sometimes even pigs head, which mean good luck and money in the New Year. For a complete guide to Celebrate New Year’s in Italy, here is a list of the top ten ways to celebrate New Year’s in Italy from Travel with Julie. (Grazie Anna and Julie).
In order to capture the many other New Year’s traditions from around the world, some research and assistance was needed. I must thank my many travel friends, peers, and bloggers who added their traditions. Thanks to:
Did we miss any? I invite you to share other traditions that you know of OR how you are celebrating this year.