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As the year draws to a close, people around the world celebrate the turn of the year with fascinating traditions and festive customs. In this blog article, we’ll take you on a journey around the globe and discover fascinating New Year’s customs around the world together.
New Year’s Eve is almost everywhere in the world a time full of traditions and rituals that symbolize happiness, prosperity and good wishes for the coming year. From spectacular fireworks to symbolic acts, below we explore together the diversity of these New Year’s celebrations from different countries.
And maybe one or two New Year’s customs or New Year’s Eve traditions will even inspire you to incorporate them into your New Year’s Eve party and make the turn of the year even more exciting with unusual customs.
Even if the new year does not begin on the same date everywhere – New Year’s customs around the world have a lot in common! Mostly it is about driving away evil spirits, invoking good powers and generally speaking for a positive new beginning and a happy new year.
New Year’s Eve is a time when people around the world celebrate their unique customs and traditions to welcome the coming year. From kisses and good luck charms to fireworks and symbolic burnt offerings, these different New Year’s Eve customs show the diversity of cultures and the shared joy of new beginnings.
As we welcome the New Year, let us be aware of how different, yet connected, we all are in our wishes for a happy and prosperous year. Let’s celebrate together the diversity of New Year’s customs around the world and inspire each other as we toast the coming year.
We start our New Year’s Eve trip around the world on home soil. In Germany, watching the television skit “Dinner for One” on New Year’s Eve is a tradition that spans generations. This skit, which originated in England in the 1960s, has become extremely popular in Germany, and is truly celebrated every year in many households on New Year’s Eve.
Many Germans already know lines of dialog like “Same procedure as every year, James!” by heart, others reenact the skit at home, and some turn it into a drinking game. In any case, one thing is certain: “Dinner for One” has long since entered the cultural memory in this country and is iconically associated with New Year’s Eve.
Fun Fact: In Great Britain, the sketch is almost unknown.
In the United States it is a tradition to kiss at midnight at the turn of the year. It is said that the first kiss in the new year brings happiness and love. Couples and friends welcome the New Year with a heartfelt kiss to show their affection for each other.
For couples, the New Year’s kiss is also symbolic of a promise to stay together for another year.
In Fiji, the New Year begins with a so-called “sevusevu” ceremony. In this, a tribal leader or elder goes door to door offering traditional roots and gifts to bring blessings for the coming year. People come together to sing, dance and share stories as they welcome the new year.
In the southeast African country of Malawi, the colorful “Gule Wamkulu” ritual takes place during New Year’s Eve celebrations. It is a masked dance tradition in which participants perform in elaborate costumes and portray mythological figures.
The festive ceremony is held not only on New Year’s Day, but also on other important occasions such as weddings and funerals. “Gule Wamkulu” unites communities, honors ancestors and is accompanied by musical sounds and dances.
In Ecuador, the old year is bid farewell with the “Año Viejo” (literally: the old year). These are dolls that represent the year coming to an end. An “Año Viejo” is made from old clothes, cardboard or paper, filled with shavings, straw or sawdust and often fitted with pyrotechnic devices or fireworks. Then the puppets are placed in the streets.
At midnight on December 31, they are lit to symbolically burn the old year and make way for the new one. This tradition is said to drive away bad luck and bad energies.
In South Africa, you should be especially careful when passing under open windows on New Year’s Day. This is because some South Africans practice a particularly radical form of new beginning: old household appliances and furniture are literally thrown out of the window!
In the land of the Kiwis, the turn of the year is celebrated with a traditional “Tug of War”. Communities gather on beaches or parks to take part in this sporting competition. The tug of war symbolizes the struggle between the old and the new year and the cooperation to overcome obstacles and start into a successful new year.
Chinese New Year parades are certainly one of the most splendid and elaborate New Year’s customs around the world and also take place in the “China Towns” of many major international cities with a large Chinese community.
In the Netherlands, brave people venture into ice-cold waters on New Year’s Eve, such as the waters of the North Sea, to welcome the New Year. This symbolic “New Year’s diving” is said to bring freshness and purity and is also seen as a challenge.
No wonder that the famous “Ice Man” Wim Hof comes from the Netherlands…
In Morocco, there is the “Ritual of Royal Bathing” on New Year’s Eve. This traditional purification ritual is performed by women and is used to symbolically cleanse the old year and start the new year with a fresh spirit. It is a significant act of renewal and spiritual growth.
In Colombia, people write their wishes and hopes for the new year on small pieces of paper, which are then burned. It is believed that the rising clouds of smoke carry the wishes to heaven and make them come true. Like many other New Year’s customs around the world, this symbolic act is an expression of optimism and anticipation for the coming year.
In Egypt, it is customary to eat “Koshari” at the turn of the year, a traditional dish of lentils, rice, noodles and spices. This dish symbolizes wealth and abundance for the coming year. Egyptians also gather in public places to watch the fireworks and celebrate together.
In Denmark it is an old tradition to start the New Year with a jump from the sofa. It is believed that this brings good luck for the coming year and drives away evil spirits. It is a fun and somewhat unusual tradition where all participants jump together and start the year with a laugh.
In Samoa, the New Year is traditionally celebrated with the “Ava Ceremony”. This spiritual ritual takes place in the villages and honors the ancestors. Prayers are said and “Ava”, a traditional drink made from the root of the kava plant, is prepared and shared. The ceremony symbolizes unity, gratitude and respect for the ancestors.
In Peru, the turn of the year is celebrated with the “Baile de las Cañas,” a traditional dance in which people swing bamboo poles and dance to the rhythm of the music. This colorful dance symbolizes the transition into a new year full of energy and positive vibes.
In South Korea, the New Year festival “Seollal” is celebrated, marking the beginning of the Korean lunar calendar. Families gather to show respect to their elders and perform traditional rituals together. These include dressing in hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), performing ancestor rituals, and eating tteokguk, a special New Year’s soup.
In Iran, the turn of the year is celebrated with “Shab-e Yalda,” an ancient tradition that dates back to the time of the Persian Zoroastrians. People gather on the longest night of the year to celebrate the light and eat together, tell stories and recite poetry. Pomegranates and watermelons are symbols of good luck and fertility and are often consumed during these celebrations.
In Guatemala, the New Year is celebrated with the “Quema del Diablo” (Burning of the Devil). People gather wood and waste materials to form a large fire pit. At midnight, a doll representing the devil is then burned.
This ritual symbolizes deliverance from evil spirits and new beginnings similar to the fireworks now common around the globe and many other New Year’s customs around the world that involve fire.
In Bulgaria, it is customary to bake special pancakes on New Year’s Eve. These pancakes contain small surprises or coins that are supposed to bring good luck for the coming year. It is also customary for people to throw coins into the street to attract prosperity and abundance.
New Year’s customs around the world conjure up good luck for the new year and that’s exactly what we wish you! Have a happy, new and healthy year!
Stay a little longer and browse through our treasure trove of leisure ideas. Abenteuer Freundschaft not only offers you more New Year’s Eve ideas, but also games, (motto) party ideas, tips for outings, craft tutorials and more generally activities with friends, for families with children and for couples.
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