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10 unusual New Year's Eve traditions around the world

Written by The Leap on 21 / 12 / 2017

Gap Year Advice

10 most unusual New Year’s traditions from around the world

It’s happened, another year has flown by. That means there’s only one thing left to do… party the year away and welcome in the next on New Year’s Eve. Every country and culture celebrates New Year in their own traditional way. Here’s our guide to the 10 most unusual New Year traditions from around the world.

1. Coloured Underwear

If you’re celebrating New Year in South America it’s traditional to wear brightly coloured underwear on New Year’s Eve, with different colours representing different things. If you’re looking for passion or love then chose pink or red, if wealth and luck are more in your sights for the coming year then its yellow underwear for you. Street stalls will sell an array of options in the run-up to New Year.

2. Using only round things

New Year’s Eve in the Philippines is complicated as its traditional to use, eat and wear only round items. The shape is a symbol of prosperity in Filipino culture and the table will be laid with 12 different round fruits, with each representing a month in the coming year which will be prosperous. This tradition is also the perfect excuse to gorge on doughnuts and cookies for a day…

3. Throwing money

celebrating new years eve Guatemala

For residents of Guatemala it's traditional to throw pennies at midnight. Guatemalans must grab 12 pennies, go outside their homes, face the street and throw the pennies behind them. Doing this ensures wealth and prosperity for the coming year.

4. Smashing plates

In Denmark, it's traditional to save up your old crockery and then smash it on the doorstep of your friend’s house on New Year’s Eve as a sign of everlasting affection and friendship. People don’t clear the debris but let it pile up, with bigger piles being a sign of popularity.

5. Burning dolls

Ecuadorians create large doll-like scarecrow effigies known as ‘viejos’ and burn them in the streets at midnight. The tradition is a goodbye to the old year and anything bad it brought. It’s a common family activity to make these ‘viejos’ in the run-up to the new year and sometimes they are even made to look like certain people that have brought bad luck… I can imagine a lot of Trump look-a-likes this year. Just to add to the celebration a lot of men will dress up in female clothes, with high heels and wigs to match. They are known as ‘el Viudas’ or the widows of the ‘viejos’ and will walk the streets asking for money – quite a lucrative tradition for those involved.

6. Eating lentils

celebrating new years eve Italy

The Italians traditionally eat lentils on New Year’s Eve for wealth and to ensure prosperity. It was believed in Roman times that the flat shape of lentils resembled Roman coins. Italy isn’t the only country to have this tradition. Residents of Chile and Brazil will also eat a spoonful of lentils at New Year to bring a year full of work and money.

7. Carrying an empty suitcase

In addition to colourful underwear, New Year’s Eve revellers in South and Central America must walk around the block with an empty suitcase. This act brings the traditionalist a year full of travel… I think we’ll all be out with an empty suitcase next week.

8. Burning wishes

celebrating new years eve Russia

On New Year’s Eve Russians will write a wish for the coming year on a piece of paper and then set fire to it before putting it in a glass of Champagne. They then must drink this, ashes and all, before 1 minute past midnight and their wish will come true. Russia has 8 time zones, so if you have more than one wish don’t worry, just make sure you’re able to spend New Year’s Day working off your champagne hangover...

9. Eating grapes

celebrating new years eve Spain

The ‘Twelve Grapes of Luck’ is a Spanish tradition that dates back to 1895. Eating a grape for each bell strike of New Year will bring you prosperity for the coming year. Just be sure to eat them fast or you might end up with a mouthful by the last strike. This tradition has been adopted in other Hispanic countries so expect to come across this in Latin America too.

10. 108 bell rings

celebrating new years eve Japan

If you think 12 grapes is a lot imagine if you had to eat one for every ring of the bell in New Year in Japan. Bells are rung 108 times in the countdown to New Year. This symbolises the 108 human sins at the centre of Buddhist beliefs, the tradition is done to clear you of any sins from the past year in preparation for the coming one.

So what's your New Year's tradition? While you’re watching fireworks and singing Auld Lang Syne, eating grapes, smashing plates or kissing your new year crush don’t forget what other people around the world are getting up to. Maybe next year you can join in one of New Year’s most unusual traditions and then do a bit of travel and volunteering afterwards.

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