New Years Traditions From Around The World
Unique Ways To Ring In 2015
December 29, 2014 by Mark Dye
The New Year is almost upon us, which means that tens of millions of people from around the world will celebrate the start of 2015 in very different ways. While some of these are rooted in centuries-old tales and traditions, some are done just for fun. So if you’re in one of these countries, your 2015 might start off differently than it would if you were in, say, New York’s Times Square.
Tradition is quite important in England, and one of them is (or used to be) the custom of “first footing.” Basically, the first man to visit a home after midnight brings a gift like money, bread or coal to help ensure the family he is visiting has plenty of those during the upcoming year. The only catch: the first visitor after midnight has to be a man (not a woman) and can’t be blonde or a redhead. (This might be why younger generations don’t carry on this tradition as often as previous ones.)
In Belgium, they call the New Year’s Eve celebration “Sint Sylvester Vooranvond” and it features parties and the accompanying food and drink. The celebration continues into the next day, which is called “Nieuwjaarsdag” and is when children write and then read holiday letters to their parents.
The Greeks not only celebrate the New Year on January 1, but also St. Basil’s Day, a religious figure who was known for his kindness toward children. People gather for special meals and exchange presents. Some still hang onions (called a "kremmida") on their doors as a symbol of rebirth for the coming year. (Parents then tap their kids on the heads with the kremmida in the morning to wake them up before church.)
Celebrations in Wales start at 3:00 to 4:00 a.m. on New Year’s morning. It is then that boys from the village go house to house with twigs of evergreens and “sprinkle luck” on the people and the homes themselves. Later that day children will travel the neighborhood singing songs in exchange for money and candy or treats.
In Japan, the end of the year is the time to have a “forget the year” party, which is when you forgive those who have wronged you and let go all of the bad things from the previous year. Some also hang ropes made from straw across the front of their homes as a way to keep away evil spirits and welcome in good ones.
The Hungarians have had a wealth of different methods of bringing in a year full of good luck—and avoiding one full of bad. The burning of effigies called “Jack Straw” was said to burn away the bad luck of the previous year, while avoiding arguments, laundry and sewing on Jan. 1 is said to ensure a good year. To stay healthy either don’t visit a doctor on Jan. 1, or wash your face that morning with cold water (and be sure to add a red apple to the water to increase your chances for a healthy year).
It makes some amount of sense that residents in both Portugal and Spain celebrate in similar fashion: by eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve. Doing so is said to bring good luck during each of the 12 months of the year.
If food is your thing, then Estonia is where you want to kick off 2015. Some people there believe that the more meals they eat on New Year’s Eve, the more strength they’ll have that next year (the number of meals corresponds to the number of men whose strength you’ll gain). Of course, they don’t eat the entirety of each meal: some is set aside for the spirits or ancestors who will visit the house that night.
So what is your New Year’s Eve tradition?