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New Year Traditions Around the World

New year in Kiev [CC BY-SA 3.0 tov_tob Wikimedia Commons]

New Year in Kiev [CC BY-SA 3.0 tov_tob Wikimedia Commons]

New Year’s (Jan. 1) is the most widely celebrated public holiday around the world, and in addition to staying up till midnight and partying with family and friends, many countries have their own unique traditions and customs to mark this holiday. Here are our top ten favorite New Year holiday traditions from around the world. Find more in the Holiday sections of CultureGrams World and Kids Editions.

1. Colombia

Colombians wear yellow underwear on New Year’s because they believe it will bring good fortune.

2. Guinea-Bissau

A common traditional belief encourages Bissau-Guineans to take a bath right at midnight in the New Year in order to cleanse one’s self of bad luck and pass into the new year with a fresh start.

3. Czech Republic

Czechs exchange small marzipan candies or paper cards in the shape of pigs for good luck in the new year.

4. Ecuador

Some superstitious New Year rituals include burning and jumping over the año viejo ( an effigy, literally meaning “old year”) for good luck, eating 12 raisins to ask for 12 wishes for the new year, wearing red underwear for good luck in love, and running around the block with an empty suitcase in hopes of travel opportunities in the new year.

5. Spain 

The Spanish wait for midnight and watch New Year’s television programming to see the clock strike 12; with each stroke, each person eats a grape.

6. Japan

The Japanese visit shrines and relatives during this time. Children receive money from their parents or grandparents. Families put up special decorations and eat special foods, such as mochi (pounded sticky rice).

7. Tonga

On New Year’s Eve, Tongans typically attend a midnight church service. Afterward, church groups proceed to the palace, where they greet and present gifts to the king. People also pay visits to family members and close friends, exchanging kisses to welcome the new year.

8. Russia

Almost every Russian family decorates a fir tree a week or two before the holiday and decorates it with glass balls, toys, and garlands. Underneath the tree, families place a figure of Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz). Russians traditionally exchange and eat mandarin oranges on New Year’s Day.

9. Bulgaria

On New Year’s Day, Bulgarian children go door-to-door, wishing good fortune to friends and relatives. The children carry a small decorated stick (survachka) which is used to tap people’s backs in exchange for candy and money.

10. Philippines

In the Philippines, everyone watches a fireworks display in town plazas or parks at midnight. Fireworks displays are traditionally thought to banish the bad spirits of the previous year.

Share some of your traditions with us. We would love to hear from you. Happy 2017!

Jenni Boyle

Jenni Boyle

is an Editor at CultureGrams and covers countries in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. She earned a BA in Middle East Studies, with an emphasis in Arabic, from Brigham Young University. She has lived and worked in Amman, Jordan and now lives in Utah. Jenni enjoys cooking Middle Eastern food, reading, and watching the LA Clippers win.
Jenni Boyle

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