7 New Year's Day family traditions around the world


No matter where you are in the world, the new year means new chances, opportunities and a fresh start. We let go of the past and look forward to making the best of what is to come. Not only do we ring in the new year at different times because of various time zones, but depending on where you come from, you may have different ways of celebrating it. 

In South Africa, we spend time with friends and family waiting to countdown the seconds into the new year. In many areas around the country, there will be huge parties thrown and the new year will be welcomed with a display of fireworks and cheering. 

This is not the case in some countries, here is how some countries celebrate New Year's Day. 

1. Denmark

Many Danes will celebrate the New Year with a homemade meal of boiled cod complete with homemade mustard sauce. For dessert, they will enjoy Kransekage, a Danish cake made by layering rings of marzipan on top of each other. This cake symbolises promises of happiness and riches. 

Since 1980, the country watches an 18-minute short film called Dinner for One, this black and white film is such a classic on New Year's Eve that Danes once went up in arms when it wasn't aired in 1985!

If Danes are watching the live broadcast of the midnight countdown on television, they will watch it from the highest point in their living room, this is normally the couch. When the clock strikes midnight, they will jump down from the couch. This shows that they have overcome hurdles and challenges from the past year. They will then sing a song titled Welcome to the Lord's New Year.

It is also tradition to smash broken china against your friends' door. The more broken china you have at your door, the more friends you have. This solidifies friendships and is a symbol of everlasting friendship.

2. Spain


Families will gather to watch the countdown to midnight that happens at the clock town in Puerta del Sol; the clock will chime 12 times. Each person will have grapes ready for the countdown. With each ring, they will pop a grape in their mouth, the 12 grapes symbolise the 12 months of the year. Eating a grape for each month will bring good fortune for that month. 

Spaniards also believe that you should be wearing red underwear while performing this grape eating ritual. 

After the last grape has been eaten, people will hug and give each other cheek kisses while toasting on bubbly and eating almond and honey nougat.

Another New Year's tradition is dropping a gold ring in a glass of bubbly, this is considered lucky.

3. Philippines

Filipinos celebrate the New Year with a large feast for friends and family. One of the dishes eaten at the feast is long Filipino noodles that are believed to bring good luck. Round fruits will be found on the table as they are a sign of prosperity. Most families will have the fruits as a centerpiece at the table and will have 12 fruit in total to represent the 12 months of the year.

No fish or chicken may be eaten as they bring back luck!

Money is not spent on the New Years because Filipinos think this will mean your finances will be in shambles in the forthcoming year.

Children in the Philippines will jump high on New Years because it is believed they will grow taller in the coming year if they do so. 

Filipinos will leave their doors wide open on New Year's day to let in good and positive energy and spirits in. They will not sweep any floors in case they will chase these good spirits out. It is encouraged to scream out loud when the clock strikes twelve to ward off evil spirits. 

Polka dots are normally worn on New Year's day to bring prosperity to the wearer.

4. Peru

In Peru, three potatoes are hidden and picked at random when the clock strikes twelve. One potato is peeled, one is unpeeled and the last one is half peeled, these potatoes represent your finances. If you pick the peeled potatoes it means you will have financial trouble, an unpeeled one represents good finances and an unpeeled one will be a normal year of finances for you. 

The colour you chose to wear also has a meaning:
Yellow: good luck
White: fertility and good health
Red: love
Green: wealth and riches

If you sprinkle some rice around your house, you will bring good fortune and luck your way. Some people will fill their pockets with lentils, cinnamon or wheat for luck but they will also keep those ingredients in the kitchens for the remainder of the year. 

Some will write five wishes on a piece of paper and dip the paper in a glass of champagne to make them come true. 

In some villages around the country, people will fist fight to settle disputes so they can leave their differences behind in the past. 

5. Bolivia

Eat all the pork you can find on New Years in Bolivia, this will bring you prosperity. Because of their history, Bolivia also partake the Spanish tradition of eating grapes on New Year's, however, they make a wish with every grape they eat. 

Bolivians will wear their underwear backwards on the day.

People who wish to travel will take their luggage to the door in hopes of making the wish happen. 

Some count money when the clock strikes midnight in order to bring riches their way in the new year. Some bake a coin into a cake and whoever finds the coin will have good luck in the new year. 

6. Ecuador

Ecuadorians will set fire to paper-mâché figures named the Viejos. Construction of these figures is a family activity. Setting these alight is a form of saying goodbye to the old year. 

Some men will dress up in women's clothing and mourn these burning figures and will only stop once they're given money. Once these have burnt down, celebrations will commence on the streets with music and dancing. 

Ecuadorians also partake in the grape eating ritual and the colour of their underwear is determined by what they would like to receive in the new year. 

7. Japan

Japanese people take their New Year's celebrations very seriously.  New Year's cards are exchanged, decorations are put up and many people will place oranges in wreaths. Steamed fish and buckwheat noodles are eaten on New Year's, the noodles are said to bring strength and resilience to the new year. 

Gifts are given for New Years and many times, money is gifted. Bells will be rung from Buddhist temples 108 times to represent the 108 human desires that cause suffering. By ringing the bell 108 times, the suffering is removed. 

Some will travel to areas with a good view of the sunrise to watch the first sunrise of the year.

No matter how you celebrate, may you have a prosperous year!

Images source: iStock

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