When Christmas festivities draw to a close, it’s always comforting to know there’s still New Year to enjoy. However, exactly how this universally significant day is celebrated varies dramatically around the world – as this list of six weird and wonderful traditions demonstrates!
In Filipino culture, the circle is a sacred shape that’s thought to signify prosperity. If you’re spending New Year’s Eve here, expect to see plenty of polka dots, round fruits and scattered coins. Children also jump twelve times at midnight, in the hope of growing up tall and strong.
Spain & Latin America
In Spain as in many other countries, locals gather in public squares around the country in anticipation of the midnight chimes. As the clocks strike their twelve chimes, they quickly eat twelve grapes, or uvas, to bestow good luck on each month of the year ahead. Another Hispanic tradition that has successfully spread to Central and South America is a certain preoccupation with the colour of your underwear – yellow is supposed to bring good luck and fortune, while red has the same effect on your love life. Just remember not to wear black – this is considered unlucky on New Year’s Eve.
An old custom in Estonia suggests that in order to ensure good luck in the New Year, you should try to eat seven, nine or twelve meals. It was believed that this would provide you with the strength of that many men for the next year – although fortunately, you’re not expected to finish each meal.
Known as Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year revolves around a series of elaborate traditions. The best known of these has to be a certain song named ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ which should be sung while standing in a circle, with each person crossing their arms to link hands with their neighbour on either side. Then there’s the practise of ‘first-footing,’ which places great importance on the first person to cross into your home in the New Year. Ideally, they should be tall, dark and come bearing coal, shortbread and whisky. In return, the homeowner plies them with food and yet more whisky before sending them on their way to the next house.
A more unnerving and considerably more dangerous tradition takes place in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. You’d be well advised to stay indoors on December 31st, as residents throw old appliances out of top-storey windows to welcome in the New Year. Out with the old, and in with the new – quite literally. Unsurprisingly, efforts are being made to ban this particular celebration, which injures dozens of people each year.
Celebrities might dominate New Year’s television in some countries, but in Panama, they suffer a rather more unpleasant fate. A somewhat peculiar tradition is to create muñecos or effigies of well-known people that you hope not to see in the coming year, and burn them on bonfires to ward off evil spirits.
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