The diversity of our world is evident also in the traditions that mark the arrival of a brand New Year. People round the world have their unique beliefs and customs to usher in the New Year.
But across the globe, one thing remains constant – all the rituals are observed to eradicate everything that is inauspicious and welcome all that is positive for the upcoming months. After all, the beginning of a New Year is always full of hope and positivity!
Romania – Bear Dance:
In Romania, the Bear Dance is a common custom to ring in the New Year. People wear masks of bears which are considered to be the iconic animal of the forest in Romania to participate in the dance. This is believed to scare away all that is evil
North Carolina – Possum Drop:
In North Carolina it is the custom to capture a possum (a nocturnal animal) and put it in a cage, and then that cage is lowered to mark the advent of the New Year. The possum is then released. Proper State and Federal license are obtained for the capture and handling of the animal. PETA argued about scaring and wrecking the health of the captured possum, but the ritual was allowed to stay on by the court of law stating that the whole thing is done with much care.
Pennsylvania – Pickle Drop:
In Pennsylvania each year the advent of the New Year is marked by dropping a three feet tall papier-mâché pickle down a forty five feet tall flagpole into a nicely preserved redwood pickle tank. Thousands of people gather to watch the event.
Germany – Lead Drop:
Molybdomancy for New Year is a common tradition in many Nordic countries including Germany. Apart from enjoying mulled wine and fireworks, the Germans have hold on to the tradition of melting lead to predict the upcoming year. A little amount of the metal is taken in a spoon and held on a source of heat. When it is molten, it is poured in a bowl or bucket full of ice cold water. The metal hardens to take a shape. The German believe that this shape is indicative of how the New Year would turn out for them. A broken or fragile shape depicts misfortune; keys represent advancement in career; bubble promise prosperity; etc.
South Africa – Furniture Drop:
Stemming out of the concept of starting afresh in the New Year, it is a common custom in South Africa to throw furniture from windows or balconies to celebrate the New Year. This custom is celebrated most in the Hillsboro district of Johannesburg where even fridges, microwaves, beds and other similar objects are reported to be thrown out. The police are trying to curb the practice to avoid accidents.
Atlanta – Peach Drop:
This is the largest New Year’s Eve event organized in Atlanta by Underground Atlanta. This sixteen hour long carnival begins at noon with fun activities for children. The climax is reached in the midnight when a fiberglass peach weighing 800 lbs is dropped from the top of a tower of lights that is 138 feet high. This peach drop is then followed by fireworks.
Switzerland – Ice cream Drop:
The Swiss people consider it to bring in prosperity if they drop ice cream on the floor on the New Year’s Eve, although some groups of activists have voiced out their concern about the wastage. People, especially children, also have fun throwing scoops of ice cream on each other.
Puerto Rico – Bucket Drop:
In Puerto Rico people throw out buckets of water from their windows on the New Year’s Eve. This they believe would take with it all the bad omens from their home to make way for the good omens to arrive in the New Year. This also marks cleaning their homes and also their Spirits to mark the New Year.
Wisconsin – Carp Drop:
People from near and far gather in Wisconsin to experience the Carp Drop on the New Year’s Eve creating a huge rush of visitors in hotels, eateries and even shops. A dead carp, weighing between 25 and 30 pounds, that is caught locally is frozen for the occasion. This Carp is nicknames as Lucky. On the day, it is partially thawed and lowered on to a throne. This event is then followed by fireworks.
Spain – Eating Lucky Grapes:
The shape round that resembles a coin is considered to be a mark of prosperity. As such, to welcome the New Year, people in Spain eat 12 grapes, one for each of the months of the upcoming New Year. They believe that this would usher in good fortune and prosperity.
Scotland – Barrel Rolling:
To mark the passage of the old year, people in Scotland set fire to barrels of tar and then roll them down the streets. This symbolizes burning away all that is old to make way for the New Year.
Denmark – Broken Plates:
Danish people believe in counting the number of loyal friends they have as the New Year begins. People collect crockery round the year to smash them in front of the front doors of their neighbors or friends on the New Year’s Eve. On the New Year’s Day people revel at the heap of broken crockery at their front door. People believe that the larger the heap the more is the number of loyal friends and well wishers.
Ecuador – Burning all that is old:
Ecuador believes in ushering in their New Year by burning out all that is old. This includes pictures that mean something to them from the past year. People gather in the streets to mark this ritual together. Paper made scarecrows are also burnt for the same purpose.
South America – Sporting bright colored underwear:
People in some parts of South America believe that the color choice they make of the underwear they would sport on the New Year’s Day would be linked to their fate in the upcoming year. They believe that white would stand for peace and happiness, pink resembles love, red is the color of passion, yellow or golden color would usher in prosperity, so on and so forth.
Japan – Ringing 108 Bells:
In Japan New Year traditions include the chiming of the temple bells for 108 times. This custom arises out of the Buddhist belief that in his journey towards worldly happiness human beings are fallible to 108 kinds of sins. Each of the bells represent one of the sins and the sound of the bells remind people of the sins and warns them to stay away from those sins in the New Year.
Peru – Takanakuy Festival:
An interesting New Year tradition in Peru is to fight with their neighbors or fellow friends. This custom is known by the name of Takanakuy. This is a way to resolve the disputes between all people and starting the New Year with a clean slate and goodwill towards all.
Romania – Coin Flip:
In Romania people believe that if you toss a coin into the water where you wash your hands at the beginning of the New Year, fortune will stay with you all round the year and you shall be blessed with more money. In earlier times when silver and gold coins were used as currency, people even tossed them in their neighborhood rivers or other water bodies.
Chile – Sleepover at the cemetery:
In Chile, people believe that on the New Year’s Eve their deceased ancestors wait for them in the cemeteries. As such they go to the cemeteries to reunite with them on the joyous occasion of the New Year. As people wait for the stroke of midnight ambient music keeps them company.
Belgium – Whispering to the Cattle:
When the society was primarily agrarian, it was often the custom for people to attach utmost importance to their cattle. A healthy flock of cattle would ensure better farming leading to a prosperous New Year. Stemming from this concept, people whisper good wishes to the cattle in the New Year, for they believed that their prosperity in the coming year depended upon the wellbeing of their cattle.
Panama – Burning Effigy:
People in Panama believe that if they burn an effigy at the onset of the New Year, it would scare away all that is negative and bad. The burning also symbolizes eradication of all the not so good things that happened in the year going away. It also represents burning away any sin committed in the year gone by. The ritual as such symbolizes starting afresh.
Philippines – Wearing Polka Dots:
In Philippines, people believe that the shape round is a mark of prosperity. As such to bring in more wealth and worldly pleasures to their life in the New Year, it is a common custom for people there to wear garments or accessories with polka dots on the New Year’s Day or on the New Year’s Eve. They also carry coins in their pockets and eat round fruits like oranges.
Ireland – Mistletoe under pillow:
The Irish people consider it to usher in love to their life if they sleep with a twig of mistletoe under their pillow on the New Year’s Eve. Some people also use branches of holly or ivy. This is especially followed by single people in the hope to find the love of their life in the New Year.
Brazil – Offering to the Sea Goddess:
In Brazil, people pray to the Sea Goddess Yemanja hoping that all their wishes would come true in the New Year. Some people simply make an offering of white flowers. Some others make offerings of little things of female vanity like perfume, combs, jewelry, cosmetics etc. Some people beautifully decorate these objects and place them on a small wooden boat and then set the boat afloat.
Columbia – Carrying a Suitcase:
In Columbia people carry with them a suitcase on the New Year’s Day in the hope that they shall have the scope to travel far and wide in the New Year.
Mass Kissing – Venice, Italy:
Venice keeps up to its reputation of being the City of Romance as thousands of people gather over the Basin of St. Mark in Venice on the New Year’s Eve to kiss in the New Year in the Piazza.