New Year’s Traditions From Around the World

Photo Credit: Flickr user Lynda


As the New Year approaches many of us are unable to spend it at home with our traditional foods and festivities. If you’re stationed away, or even deployed for this New Years, why not look into some of the traditions wherever you find yourself and celebrate like a local? Let’s take a quick trip around the world and help you come up with ideas to incorporate into your holiday!


While we’re shooting off fireworks in the states, the Buddhist temples in Japan will be ringing bells. Ringing the bells 108 times to be exact. They do this as a purification of sins so people can go into the New Year with a clean slate. They also will start off the New Year sending out post cards the same way we send out Christmas cards. The goal is to send them out early enough in December that they will be received on January 1st to wish their friends and family a happy, healthy new year. 


Much like in the states, Russians celebrate the New Year with big celebrations. Fireworks and great food are accompanied by a message from the country’s President just before midnight. For the little ones, Grandfather Frost comes with his granddaughter, the Snow Girl, to deliver presents like Santa Claus at Christmas. 



Apparently the US is one of the few places that doesn’t include gifts in their New Year’s traditions. In India, gifts, greeting cards, and messages of good tidings are passed amongst friends and family. Large parties are held on New Year’s Eve with concerts, great amounts of food, and time with loved ones. Look for fireworks here too! They do love the big displays in India.



While no Italian celebration is without food and wine, New Year’s is the time to bring out the lentil stew. They believe you should eat a spoonful with each bell that rings at midnight for good luck. Another good luck tradition is to make sure you’re rocking red undies at midnight. Oh, and just in case you find yourself in Southern Italy on New Year’s Day, watch out for falling objects! They believe in literally throwing out the old. Objects can be found flying out of windows to make room for the new.


While they are well known for their Christmas festivals and markets, there is no shortage of New Year’s traditions in Germany. Believe it or not, it’s an English-speaking, British movie filmed in Germany that makes an appearance on New Year’s Eve. Rent a copy of Dinner for One, brew up some fire tongs punch, and grab your jelly donuts or Berliner, to ring in the New Year the German way.



The Scots celebrate Hogmanay at New Year’s. It began when Christmas was outlawed. Because it was considered a Catholic tradition in the 17th century and they were in the midst of a Protestant Reformation, the holiday was banned and many Scots had to work through the holiday season. To make up for it they would celebrate Hogmanay, exchanging presents and enjoying time with friends, family and good food. While they regained Christmas in the 1950’s, they still carried on the first footing tradition. Tradition says that the first person to walk into a home after the New Year begins will determine the luck of the family. They often pick a person who is male and dark (blonde strangers represented Vikings that brought trouble) to bring in the luck. 



In case you had any doubt about the atmosphere in Brazil around the New Year, know it’s considered one of the biggest celebrating cities in the world! Parties full of food, fireworks, music, friends, and family are everywhere. The parties last late into the night and often include a ceremony honoring Imenga, the Goddess of the Sea and Mother of the Waters. People put scented flowers, floating candles, jewelry, and rice directly into the water to ensure fair seas for fishmen in the year to come.    


I think my favorite New Year’s tradition to come from Mexico is the eating of 12 grapes while the New Year’s bells ring. This is done to symbolize good wishes for each month in the year to come. For those celebrating South of the Border make sure to pick your clothing with care; they believe the colors you pick will determine your health (white), love life (red),as well as wealth and happiness (yellow) for the next year.


Of course our world tour of traditions wouldn’t be complete without talking about those found here in the states. Many worldwide traditions have found their way here. From the foods we eat to the parties we plan, it’s all influenced by the cultures we come from. But the biggest symbol of US New Year’s traditions is the ball drop from Time Square in New York City. The iconic drop is shown across all time zones as it hits midnight.

No matter where you’re celebrating this year, please make sure you are safe. It’s known to be one of the biggest holidays for drinking and driving accidents; line up a designated driver or have your celebrations in the safety of your own home. Happy New Year’s Day! 


If you like this, check out 5 Ways to be a Happier Person in 2015


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