The new year represents many things for different people, so it’s no surprise that there as many traditions around the world as there are New Year’s resolutions. From tossing furniture to banging bread and diving into lakes of ice, here are some of the ways people all over the globe celebrate the idea of fresh starts and new beginnings on New Year’s Eve.
In South Africa, people say goodbye to the previous year by throwing out pieces of old furniture. The act is meant to symbolize casting away the burdens and problems of the year past in order to embrace a fresh start (just be careful walking past windows and balconies on New Year’s Eve).
In Spain, the country celebrates the coming of a new year by eating grapes. At midnight, as each strike of the bell clock rings, you eat one grape with the goal of finishing twelve by the time the bell-ringing ends. Once you’ve done that, you’ve eaten your way to 365 days of prosperity.
If you’re hoping to do some traveling in the new year, celebrate like locals in Colombia do – by grabbing an empty suitcase and running around the block at the stroke of midnight. The faster you run, the more traveling you’ll do.
A long-standing New Year tradition in Scotland is known as “first-footing.” If you’re the first person to cross a home’s threshold in the New Year, it’s customary to bring a gift for good luck. Coin, bread, salt, coal or whiskey are common choices that represent prosperity, food, flavor, warmth and good cheer. (This luck is for the home-owner, not the giver unfortunately.)
Bread makes an appearance in an Irish New Year custom too. If you find yourself on the Emerald Isle for the holiday, grab a loaf of bread and bang it against a wall -- any wall will do -- loudly. This will banish bad luck and bad spirits from the house.
If you’re not a fan of cold weather, or more accurately, swimming in cold weather, steer clear of Siberia. The New Year’s tradition there is to cut a hole in the ice covering Lake Baikal in order to dive to the bottom and plant a New Year’s tree. Because the waters are below freezing, only professional divers are invited to take part.
If you like your sleep, don’t head to New Zealand for New Year’s. The country’s tradition of banging pots and pans loudly at the stroke of midnight is sure to keep you from catching any Zzzz’s.
In Chile, a spoonful of lentils eaten at midnight means a year filled with work opportunities (and money).
In Russia, the thing to do on New Year’s is to write a wish on a piece of paper, burn it, throw it in a champagne glass and then drink it before the clock reads 12:01 a.m.
Japan locals celebrate the New Year by visiting their local temple where the bells chime a sacred 108 times. Some people even don costumes of the upcoming year’s zodiac animal when making the trip (2016 is the year of the monkey, in case you were wondering).
The United States has plenty of customs – from watching the ball drop in Times Square to kissing when the clock strikes midnight – but a tastier tradition can be found in the South, where people often cook a stew made of black-eyed peas. The peas symbolize coins and the more you eat, the better your financial outlook will be in the coming year.
In Brazil, where the weather’s still warm, people head to the beach to jump over seven waves -- one for each day of the week -- while making the same number of wishes for the New Year.
Cake is on the menu in Bolivia during New Year’s. People bake the tasty treat with a coin inside. Whoever finds said coin while eating their slice is guaranteed good luck in the New Year.
When it comes to welcoming the New Year, no one does it quite like the Chinese. The country’s Spring Festival is the most important of the year and spans a whopping 15 days. During that time, families clean house, exchange cards, decorate, eat dumplings, visit relatives and set off fireworks to celebrate the fresh start the coming year promises.
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