Much like Christmas, New Year attracts its fair share of weird traditions. Unlike Christmas, however, at New Year no-one seems to be eaten by demons. Oh, and a piece of coal is a welcome present.
Who will be next to marry? In Belarus they have an ingenious way of finding out. Single women hoping to find love line up in an orderly fashion and lay a small pile of corn on the ground in front of them. Then a rooster is released. Whoever’s corn he eats from first will be the first to marry. Foolproof, just like an octopus predicting the World Cup winner.
In Belgium they take their livestock seriously at least seriously enough that the farmers wish their cows a happy New Year.
The new year’s tradition is to bake coins into their cakes and sweets, whoever finds them has good luck for the year. So if you don’t break your teeth on the sixpence or thimble in your Christmas pud, then you can have another go now.
In Brazil it’s a tradition to wear white. It represents peace and wards off evil spirits for the year ahead. also, it is said that if you jump seven waves you will have good luck for the year ahead, so there’s an excuse to hit the beach should you need one.
In Chile families sleep at the cemetery to keep their deceased loved ones company.
If you live in Columbia you’d attempt to have a travel-filled year by carrying an empty suitcase around on New Year’s Day. Great if you call into the sales too.
On New Year’s Eve in Denmark it’s traditional to grab your old plates and shatter them against the front door of anyone you want to have good luck for the year ahead. So don’t be offended if you wake up on New Year’s Day to a pile of smashed crockery on your doorstep – it’s a compliment. Also in Denmark there is a tradition is to jump off a chair as the clock strikes midnight to – literally – leap into the new year.
In Ecuador the locals make effigies of notable cultural or political figures and set fire to them, it’s supposed to symbolise burning away the old year and welcoming the new. They also burn photographs from the last year in the name of good fortune.
In this part of Europe, the numbers seven, nine and twelve are considered lucky. So on New Year’s Day it’s traditional to eat seven, nine or twelve meals. The more food you eat, the more abundant food will be in the year ahead.
The French like to keep things simple and delicious, every New Year they consume a stack of pancakes
It’s traditional here to eat lots of pork on New Year’s Day. The rich fat represents prosperity and wealth. The Hungarians also believe that washing with cold water on the morning of the new year will keep you healthy for the year ahead. And under no circumstances should you attempt any chores today some believe doing so will cause the death of a family member.
Venice is a sickeningly romantic place at any time of year. But if you head to the main square on new year’s eve you are likely to witness a mass kissathon. A huge fireworks display builds up to a big kiss for your nearest and dearest and, if you want to, a few strangers too.
In Japan they ring all of their bells 108 times in alignment with the Buddhist belief that this wards off demons. It’s also considered good to be smiling going into the New Year as it supposedly brings good luck.
In the Philippines it’s all about the cash they believe that everything should be round so as to represent coins and bring wealth round food round clothes as long as it’s round
In Puerto Rico it’s traditional to fill your pots and pans with water and then throw the contents out of your front door at midnight. Very odd, clearly this would not happen anywhere it would likely to freeze, trip to A&E, anyone?
Farmers try to communicate with their animals on New Year’s Day. If they’re successful they will have good luck for the year ahead. Although some also believe that it eh animals speak back to you it is a sign of bad luck. Hmm.
It’s also traditional for people to dress up as bears, goats and other animals and drop in on neighbours to spread good luck as well as good cheer. They throw their spare coins into the river to get good luck too.
In parts of Russia they take their new year’s wish-making seriously. At midnight they write down a wish on a piece of paper. Then they set fire to it and drop the paper in their champagne, which they must drink by 12.01am for the wish to come true.
The tradition of first footing in Scotland dictates that the first visitor to your house after midnight must bring a gift of coal or bread to bring good luck for the year. In turn they are thanked with a wee dram of whisky. Many in Scotland believe the first footer should be a tall, dark man. My Grandad used to do this when I was little, he always had to go out the back door and walk round to come in at the front door. In a hangover from the Viking invasion, some believe that a fair-haired, blue-eyed first footer brings bad luck.
Just as you might expect in Siberia they jump into frozen lakes carrying tree trunks. I bet vodka plays a role in this.
Watch out if you’re strolling around South Africa on New Year’s Eve as it is traditional to throw your old unwanted furniture out of the window to symbolise a fresh start for the year ahead.
In some South American countries wearing coloured underwear will determine your fate for the New Year – red underwear means you’ll find love, gold means wealth and white signifies peace.
As the clocks strike twelve, revellers fill their mouths with twelve grapes. Each one represents a wish for the year ahead. Successfully negotiating the grape challenge will make your wishes come true. A big mouth is handy.
The tradition in Switzerland is to hurl ice cream on the floor at midnight. Which for a country which is particular about things is a bit off beat.
It is a Thailand custom to engage in friendly water fights as a metaphor of cleansing, smearing chalk dust on each is also very common and originated from the chalk used by monks to make blessings.
Red underwear. It’s a big deal in Turkey and must be purchased for women to wear on New Year’s Eve to bring luck for the year ahead. Not sure if they have to prove to people that they are wearing it.
North Carolina sees itself as the home of the possum. To honour that fact, every year in Brasstown they lower a possum in a Perspex box from the heavens to the ground at midnight. So far, so weird. The possum used to be real, but after complaints from animal rights activists, the possum is now fake.
However you celebrate, enjoy!