New Year’s is celebrated differently all over the globe. Here are some of those traditions!
2019. A new year come, another one gone. It’s a holiday celebrated all throughout the world as the people around the globe anticipate the things that await them in a new season and say goodbye to the trials from the past year with reflection on the good times and a hope that there will be many more to come. However, while there are universal traditions around the world such as fireworks and countdowns to midnight on December 31st, many countries have traditions reflective of their own unique cultures. Here are just a few of the many ways different countries celebrate the new year. Enjoy!
One of the most famous sights that people all over the world are familiar with is the New Year’s Eve firework show that takes place in Sydney, which is known for doing New Year’s Eve right with boat rides, parties, and the large countdown and firework celebration, of course.
In Brazil you can be sure to find all types of festivities, especially close to the beaches. One traditional custom for New Year’s is to wear all white for the promise of peace in the coming year. Brazilians can also be found on New Year’s Eve munching on the customary seven pomegranate seeds for economic prosperity in the coming year which are then to be stowed away in a money carrying garment such as a wallet, while others can be found paying homage to the native religions of the land.
With the wintry season in full swing in North America when the New Year rolls around, Canadians take advantage of their colder weather for fun activities such as the customary “polar bear” swim in the icy waters on New Year’s Day. Other wintry activities that are popular during the new year in Canada include ice skating and ice fishing. Ice fishing has become an old tradition made new and popular again with more technological advancements made to the fishing houses and set up.
With the coming of a new year being very important to Chinese culture, this nation is full of rituals, symbols, and festivities. While the Chinese New Year itself is not until mid-winter, most in China celebrate officially on January 1st now, while the Chinese New Year is a spring festival. Dragons are symbols of good luck and can be found in celebrations and parades, dancing to welcome the new year, along with zodiacs being the symbol for each year; 2019 is set to be the year of the pig, each animal having its own meaning and importance for the upcoming year.
In France, the Catholic faith plays a very important part in the way people recognize the new year as the day of New Year’s Eve is known as “Saint Sylvester’s Day,” which could be compared similarly to a birthday feast. The French can be found celebrating on New Year’s Eve by kissing under mistletoe at the stroke of midnight, sending out New Year celebratory cards, and eating a meal of foie gras and oysters. Celebrating the new year continues beyond the initial New Year’s Eve celebrations with the celebration of Three Kings’ Day, or the Epiphany with a king cake—a puff pastry type of delicacy where a small model of the baby Jesus is hidden and the one who finds it gets to wear a crown for a day, being crowned a “king.”
Greece is a country known for their enthusiasm and traditions, including those relating to the new year. Because of the large Orthodox faith in this country, saints play a huge role here, especially Saint Vasilis, also known as Saint Basil. Just as Santa Claus plays an important role to children all over the world for delivering presents on Christmas Eve, Saint Vasilis is very important to the children of Greece as they wait for him to bring gifts on New Year’s Eve. The new year is also welcomed with the singing of kalanta, carols that you can find Greeks singing on New Year’s Eve. Families also spend New Year’s Eve playing cards for good fortune.
For the people of Japan, New Year’s is a very important holiday, with traditions such as cleaning the house on New Year’s Eve to start fresh for the coming year, and to have soba noodles at dinner for a life of longevity and good health. New Year’s Day also holds its own special traditions such as going to the temples and shrines in keeping with the religious traditions of the people as well as waking up very early to await the rising of the sun for the first time of the year.
The New Year’s traditions of Mexico are very similar to those that can be found in Spain, South and Central America while others are distinctly their own. New Year’s Eve has a variety of traditions, which include having a very late meal that night which may consist of a codfish dinner. Eating twelve grapes in the last minute before the new year while making a wish with each grape eaten (one for every month) is especially popular, along with wearing certain colored undergarments for different things you may want the most that year; wearing yellow is for wealth while wearing red is for finding love.
Peru’s New Year’s celebratory rituals focus on the upcoming events for the year. One tradition includes the hiding of three potatoes under a couch; one must stay whole, one half unpeeled, and the last one completely peeled. Each potato has a different meaning: unpeeled is great financial fortune, half peeled is a standard fiscal year, and peeled is the equivalent to bad financial situations in the coming year. The potato that is selected randomly will predict the year’s financial situation. The placing rice around the house is another custom that has stuck, which is supposed to symbolize fertility and wealth.
In South Africa, spending the New Year’s holiday with family can be very important, just as large concerts are also frequent events people flock to, but for those planning on going to a large New Year’s event it is the annual Minstrel Carnival in Cape Town that steals the show; dancing, music, costumes, and parades make up the iconic event.
It is from the New Year’s celebrations of the United Kingdom that we can thank for our New Year’s song, “Auld Lang Syne,” an old Scottish tune Robert Burns finally wrote down in the late 1700s. People in the United Kingdom may find having a dark-haired man at their New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day celebration crucial for the custom of “first-footing,” which is supposed to bring good luck to a household by having this dark-haired fellow be the first to walk through the door of the new year – especially making sure he is bearing trinkets which may be something like coal, change, or a loaf of bread. Another good luck custom originating from Yorkshire is the repetition of the words “black rabbit” before midnight, and at the strike of the new year, beginning to say “white rabbit.”
United States of America
Last but certainly not least is our own country of the USA. For people all across America, New Year’s is a time of gathering with friends and family, many of whom watch the famous ball drop in Times Square in New York City, and with the turn of the new year at midnight, confetti, toasts, kisses, and cheers can be found just about anywhere. On New Year’s Day you can be certain to find people all across the country watching the famous Rose Parade held in Pasadena, California, to then watch the Rose Bowl and other football games. There is the southern tradition in America of eating black-eyed peas for good luck, along with the popularity of eating collard greens for wealth – something I personally have grown up accustomed to living in the south.
No matter where in the world you are from, everyone and every place has its own way of ringing in the new year in its own unique way of reflecting the nation’s culture, but all ultimately have the same message: “Happy New Year!”
Abby Trivett is a staff writer for the Daily Runner.