New Ways to Celebrate the New Year

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Last year, my family decided to try out various New Year traditions from around the world. Some were more fun than others, but all were an interesting way to learn about customs in other cultures. We will definitely be making it our own tradition to usher out the old year like the Irish: by banging a loaf of bread against the wall. There was something deeply satisfying about this act, particularly because 2020 was certainly a year we wanted to escape so badly. And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty happy to bid farewell to 2021 too! Grab a baguette and smack the year’s frustrations away as we sail into 2022!

I did some research to find a few more unique traditions from around the world, and we are ready to give some a try.

ARGENTINA

At midnight, the Argentines make sure to start the new year on the right foot – literally. They take their first step of the year with their RIGHT foot. Simple and easy, with no prep. Done!

BRAZIL

Brazilians take to the sea by throwing white flowers into the ocean as offerings to the water goddess Yemoja. No sea around here, but I can buy some white flowers and toss them into a pond or something. Basically the same thing, right?

COLOMBIA

Grab an empty suitcase and carry it around the block to ensure a year with travel. Also guaranteed to make your neighbors think you are very strange if you do this somewhere other than Colombia.

CZECH REPUBLIC

On New Year’s Eve, the Czechs cut an apple in half and study the core. If it’s shaped like a star, the new year should bring happiness and health, but if it’s shaped like a cross, someone at the New Year’s party will soon get sick. Yes, I did just hop up and cut an apple. Did you?

DENMARK

A surefire way to make your kids happy: jump off your chairs in unison at midnight to leap into the new year and leave the bad things behind. Approval to jump on furniture? My kids will be all in for this one!

ESTONIA

Put on your stretchy pants! The Estonians eat a LOT of meals for luck. They eat seven, nine, or even twelve meals because those numbers are considered lucky. Sounds like a great way to make excuses for indulging this year! Maybe grab some Tums to have on hand if you’re going this route. Anyone else picturing Joey Tribbiani with his Thanksgiving pants right now?

FINLAND and GERMANY

These are similar, so I clumped them together. Finnish folk melt tin horseshoes then pour the tin into cold water. The resulting shape tells you what to expect in the new year.

Germans ring in the new year with an activity called Bleigießen, which is a unique process of lead pouring. Each person melts a small piece of lead or tin with the flame of a candle, then they pour the lead into a container of cold water. The shape it forms will reveal their fate for the new year.

ITALY

The Italians believe wearing red underwear will ward off negativity and bring good luck. It’s best if the underwear is brand new and a gift from someone else. Red is also considered good luck for fertility. Looking to grow your family in 2022? Find some red undies, stat!

JAPAN

Buddhist temples ring their bells 107 times on New Year’s Eve and one more at the stroke of midnight. This ritual, called Joya no Kane, is said to dispel the 108 evil desires in each person, cleansing them for the new year. This is done throughout Japan, but the most famous location is Chion-in, where 17 monks work together to ring a huge bell weighing 70 tons. I can’t get past the idea of 108 different evil desires, but I did enjoy watching this video of the bell.

NETHERLANDS

The Dutch eat oliebollen, which appear to be something similar to donut holes. The history behind this fried treat is…interesting. The story was that the German goddess Perchta (known as the Belly Slitter) would reward people who worked hard but would punish those who were lazy by cutting open people’s stomachs and filling them with trash. But if they ate these oily fried dough bites, her knife would slide right through instead of slicing up their innards. Who wouldn’t take an excuse to eat a bunch of donuts?

PHILIPPINES

Many countries focus on eating round foods as a symbol of wealth in the new year (the reason behind the southern tradition of black-eyed peas). In the Philippines, they take it a step further. They eat round foods, yes, but they also wear polka dots.

RUSSIA

This one is a newer tradition, just for the past 25 years. Two divers, known as Father Frost and Ice Maiden, go into the frozen Lake Baikal and take a tree more than 100 feet below the surface. Nothing about this sounds remotely fun to me, but apparently people travel from all over to witness these people enter a frozen lake.

And that’s not all the Russians do: they also write down their wishes for the new year, burn them, then add the ashes to a glass of champagne, which they drink. I prefer my beverages sans ashes, but you do you.

SCOTLAND

The Scots have a tradition called first footing, where the first person who crosses the threshold of your home after midnight should be a dark-haired male. Usually these men bring coal, salt, shortbread, and whiskey. The reasoning is interesting: when Scotland was invaded by Vikings (light-haired men), it was obviously very bad luck when one of those blond guys showed up at your door. So find a dark-haired dude with some whiskey to walk through your door after midnight for good luck in the coming year.

In the town of Stonehaven, people swing balls of fire over their head and then toss them into the sea. This wards off evil spirits in the new year. This is done by trained professionals, so do not try this at home, especially after you’ve had some champagne.

TANZANIA

To ensure they don’t carry old grudges into the new year, men battle one another with banana stems during the Mwaka Kogwa Festival (which actually occurs in July, but a banana battle was too cool to leave out).

How will you ring in the new year?

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