15 New Year’s Eve Traditions from Around the World

We love New Year’s Celebrations and festivities from around the world! It is so much fun learn about all the quirky ways you can ring in the New Year and wave goodbye to the old year. Of course, simply having a party is FABULOUS (we have some great Countdown Activities for you too) and must of course include a sing song of Auld Lang Syne… but why not learn about other cultures this year too? Then take some of these favourite ideas and turn them into your own Family New Year’s Eve traditions!

Collection of New Year's Eve Traditions
These New Year’s Eve Traditions where first published in 2013 and have been updated and republished for your convenience! Enjoy!

The majority of these New Year’s traditions where shared by friends of mine that come from all over the globe. They are authentic and written by people who have grown up with these wonderful New Year’s Eve traditions.

A lot of the traditions centre around bringing good luck or warding off bad luck or even evil spirits. But New Year’s is also about rebirth and a fresh start in January!

Many people celebrate with friends and family and have a big feast. They will have a party, with champagne and tasty food, sing auld lang syne and midnight and watch some fireworks… but what are some of the more quirky traditions from around the world? Read on!

This list was created back in 2013! It was so much fun, that I have added even more traditions that I have learnt about from my readers since. I do hope you enjoy this fabulous list too!

New Year’s Eve Traditions – be inspired to create your OWN Family Traditions for New Year’s Eve!

Also, don’t miss out on our Countdown Clocks (free templates for you to grab and assemble!!), you could combine this countdown with a “tradition from around the world” to each segment? Or check out our Countdown Activities too – you will find some fun things for EVERYONE!

Onwards, to our New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world

Scotland – giving gold and coal

Gold & Coal – Scotland

The tradition is called the first footer and this entailed me walking around to the front door with a piece of coal and a £20 note of which I was never allowed to keep. Knocking/ringing the bell and then them letting me back into the warmth being the first person (footer) to enter the house in the new year and bringing my gifts for the household!

I have done some research on this to be able to explain a little further and found that the ‘gifts’ the first footer can bring vary and all have different meanings. These gifts include a coin, bread, salt, coal, or a drink (usually whisky – but I think that is because it originates from Scotland) and the reason behind them is that each item represents something within life for example financial prosperity, food, flavour, warmth, and good cheer.

For a modern day Scottish New Year’s Eve tradition, why not give one of the many “fake” coal products out there? For example you can learn how to make edible coal as per Living on a Dime’s Recipe!

NOTE that New Year’s Eve in Scotland is also known as Hogmanay and celebrations often last well into the new year, especially since January 2nd is a bank holiday in Scotland. The poet Robert Burns often features in New Year’s celebrations!

Spain – Eating Grapes on the stroke of midnight

Grapes – Spains

I actually remember doing this as a child. It was super fun, but also a bit messy… just thing lots of juice dribbling….. In Spain, everyone gets a bowl or skewer of 12 grapes just before midnight. On each stroke of the midnight clock you eat one grape. 1 for the first stroke, your second on the second stroke etc. If you manage all 12 you will have a lucky year.

It sounds easy enough… but I remember looking like a hamster with grape filled cheeks and an a juice soak party frock after this activity!

**NOTE** as we all know grapes can be a choking hazard especially for young children. if in doubt, please cut your grapes in half lengthwise.

Russia – Burning Things

Burning Wishes – Russia

Right before the midnight we had a special tradition of wish-making: everyone had a piece of paper and a pencil/pen and a glass filled with a drink and candles lighted. When the last countdown would start on TV, we had to quickly write our wish, burn the paper and drink the ashes together with our drink.

Needless to say the whole glass of drink had to be finished! It was a real competition and I remember how I was so disappointed a few times that I didn’t make it on time. When we grew older we would give it another try: Russia has 8 time zones, so after we had our midnight, we could “meet the New Year” once again an hour or 2 later!

Southern United States – Eating Black-Eyed Peas

Black Eyed-Peas – Southern US

Without a doubt, my favourite meal that he has introduced me to is Hoppin’ John – a dish of black-eyed peas and ham – which is served on New Year’s Day to bring a lucky and prosperous year. The beans in the dish are symbolic of pennies, and sometimes a coin will be added to the pot, or popped under the bowls on the table. In some families, diners are encouraged to leave three of the beans uneaten on the plate for additional good luck. {You MUST read this post by Stacy and her variation on this tradition. Sure made me giggle!}

Get the recipe here!

Germany – Good Luck Pigs made from Marizpan

Marzipan Good Luck Piggies – Germany/ Austria

There are lots of theories about why pigs are a symbol of good luck, ranging from pigs being able to feed your family, to boars being the centre of a bulls eye, to losers being awarded a piglet as a consolation prize in the middle ages.

For New Years, many Germans give gifts of small marzipan pigs to their friends and family. Sometimes adorned with a four leave clover, sometimes a horse shoe other times a toadstool.

Learn how to make them here.

Italy – wearing clothes of a specific colour – Red Underpants!

Red Knickers – Italy

Every Italian from the north to the south of the Boot will be making sure they have some red underwear to wear on the 31st December to welcome the new year in and hence shower themselves in good luck and I thought it would be a very good idea to pass this nugget of information on so YOU too could join in, after all, if they are doing it and they are renowned world over for their impeccable taste and incredible sense of Made in Italy fashion then what’s to stop us taking a leaf out of their book and joining in?

A tradition (apparently) dating back to medieval times and used by the men who would use a red drape over their groin to protect their precious ‘family jewels‘ from the witches who at the turn of midnight were out on the village streets looking to cast spells and make trouble/have fun.

The colour red is a lucky colour which brings allegria and consequently good fortune. It keeps negative energy away and calls on the protective presence of the Archangel Michael – make what you want of that bit I found it on the internet!

To give the gift of red underwear is to wish great fortune on the receiver and a rich and satisfying year ahead.

Denmark/ Copenhagen – Jumping off Chairs

The Danish like to literally “Jump into the New Year” – by jumping off chairs on the stroke of midnight. They also love to smash plates as a sign of good luck and posterperity – in fact, you must smash your plates against a friend’s door as a sign of friendship.. and hang onto chipped tableware all year around especially to do this!

Hungary – lighting sparklers and New Year’s Eve food Frankfurters

Sparklers & Frankfurters – Hungary

It is all about food and sparkles. In Hungary, New Year’s Eve (called Szilveszter in Hungarian), is often celebrated with a large dinner of pork and stuffed cabbage for good luck. At midnight, it’s customary to kiss your family and friends on both cheeks (the typical Hungarian greeting) for good luck throughout the year.

And don’t be surprised if frankfurter sausages and roast pig start getting served shortly after midnight, even after the big meal you just ate a couple of hours before! More info here.

Germany & Austria – Lead Pouring special figures for New Year’s Eve celebrations

Bleigiessen – Austria/ Germany

Bleigießen translates to lead pouring, and it’s a way to read your fortune for the new year. Aside from having one of us grand kids go buy foods for the buffet, Großmutti would set another one of us, usually my brother or step-dad, onto finding lead pieces and an old spoon. I’ve noticed that in Germany or Austria you can buy Bleigießen kits which include cute little lead figures, but we’ve always used fishing weights.

We gather around the table with a candle and a bowl of water. One of the grown-ups holds a spoon with the lead weight over the flame and lets the lead melt. Once it’s liquid you pour it into the cold water. It immediately freezes into a new shape – your fortune for the coming year!

More on this story here.

Greece – Hanging an Onion or Onions from Doors & Smashing pomegranates

As mentioned, most New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day traditions are about luck and starting of the new year on the right foot. The New Year symbolises a fresh start and new beginnings. The humble onion has long been a simple of rebirth and growth. Hanging onions from doors represents this growth and rebirth for the new year and will bring luck to those who partake in this simple tradition.

The greek also partake in “Good Footing” or “first-footing” – at Midnight, the whole family leaves the house, and the person deemed the “luckiest” enters over the threshold first, with their right foot. This is considered “good footing and good luck.

Next, follows the “Smashing pomegranates” as another quirky greek tradition. According to Culture Trip, someone with a good heart has the honor of smashing a pomegranate (a sign of prosperity, fertility and regeneration) at the door. It is said that the more seeds on the floor, the better and luckier the year will be.

Find out more about these greek traditions (and more! Including Good Footing) from Culture trip.

New Year’s Traditions from South America

Brazil – going for a New Year’s – Jumping over 7 Waves

Wave Jumping – Brazil

On New Year’s Eve many Brazilians will dress in white – to bring good luck and peace for the year. And then after midnight (and watching lots fireworks) they will head to the beach, to jump over 7 waves, whilst throwing flowers into the sea and making a wish.  Some will also light candles and bury them in the sand. It is believed that the goddess of the sea will make their wishes come true. [Source]

Living in chilly England, I think that may be we will NOT be doing this one.. but for those of you on the Southern Hemisphere…maybe you fancy a dip in the see this New Year’s Eve? It certainly would be a refreshing start to your New Year and maybe would be a fun New Year’s Eve Tradition for your family!

Puerto Rico & Colombia – Run round the house with empty suitcases

Puerto Rico

Both Colombia and Puerto Rico New Year’s Celebrations include running around the outside of the house with some empty luggage, in order to guarantee some holidays in the new year!

Philippines – Polka Dots and Grapes

In the Philippines round shapes represent coins are considered prosperous. So at New Year’s you will find lots of things with round shapes – e.g. lots of people in the Philippines will wear Polka Dot clothing. Or they will have lots of round fruit out as part of their New Year’s Eve. And similarly, to spain, people will try and eat 12 round objects (usually grapes) at the stroke of midnight!

As in many countries, fire works are lit, but here, usually to ward off evil spirits!

Ecuador – burning effigies

Burning things really is popular.. As with the Russians, the Ecuadorians also like to burn things. But this time, they like to burn effigies of people associated with los años viejos (the old years). This is a form of ridding yourself of any bad of the year gone before and starting the year afresh.

Looking towards Lunar Calendar and Lunar New Year:

Red Money Envelopes – China

The Chinese New Year holds many special traditions.  One of those is the red envelope.  Unlike our Christmas where we exchange various gifts, the Chinese give money.  You don’t see people flocking to the stores for their Chinese New Year shopping… only to purchase a new outfit.  New clothing is always worn for Chinese New Year as an important symbol for starting anew.  Even the children are given gifts of money in the Chinese New Year rather than toys.  This money is ALWAYS given in a red envelope with gold lettering.

Learn how to make your own Red Money Envelopes here!

Finally – create your own Family New Year’s Traditions

Create Your Own Traditions

And as our New Year’s Eve Traditions from around the world draw to a close.. about making your very own and very special Family Traditions? Today, Super Amazing Mum shares her family’s very own tradition (champagne, good food and dressing up!) and I reckon there are a thing or three we might  start doing ourselves!!!

If you are doing the “big countdown” with the kids and are looking at some crafts to do with them, check out these 30 New Year’s Eve Crafts! And even more New Year’s Eve Ideas here!

Then check out our fabulous New Year’s Eve Countdown Activities for kids – including lots of free printables!

All set? What will you be doing for New Year’s Eve? After making our marzipan pigs for friends and family, I am likely to have a lovely warm drink and snuggled on the sofa…. phew 2021 has been BUSY!!!

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