Some people may find it strange to withstand freezing temperatures and gusty winds for hours on end just to stand in the center of Times Square in New York City to catch a glimpse of a bejeweled ball drop at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Yet this tradition may seem tame when compared to other unique rituals that take place around the world come New Year’s Eve.
North Americans may be singing “Auld Lang Syne” and toasting to good fortune with a glass of bubbly, but elsewhere traditions can be somewhat more eccentric. In some spots of South America, for example, revelers put on brightly colored underwear to ring in the New Year. Red underpants signal a person looking for love, while yellow means they’re seeking money. The following are some other unique New Year’s traditions.
- Tossing the dishes: In Denmark, individuals toss dishes at other people’s front doors. Those who end up with the greatest number of broken dishes at their home’s threshold are considered lucky, as they have an abundance of loyal friends.
- Right foot: Start off the New Year on the right foot by literally stepping forward with your right foot at exactly 12:00 a.m. in Argentina.
- Burning in effigy: People in Ecuador burn photographs and paper-filled scarecrows at midnight. This is to look away from the past and bring good fortune for the future.
- Good grapes: Spain residents attempt to stuff 12 grapes in their mouths at midnight. If they are successful, they are expected to achieve good luck for the next year.
- Dressing in white: Residents of Brazil dress all in white on New Year’s Eve to ward away bad spirits. Many also gather at the beach to toss floral offerings into the water to appease the goddess Yemaja, in the hopes she will grant them requests for the upcoming year.
- Good travels: In Columbia, people walk around their blocks with empty suitcases to encourage traveling in the New Year.
- Ringing bells: Japanese ring all of their bells 108 times in accordance with the Buddhist belief that this will bring cleanliness. People in Japan also believe it is good luck to begin the New Year smiling.
- Putting up your dukes: Every year at the end of December, people in a small Peruvian village engage in fistfights to settle all of their differences. Afterward, they begin the New Year with a clean slate.
- First foot: Immediately after the clock strikes 12, the people of Scotland start first-footing. This means being the first person across a friend or neighbor’s threshold bearing gifts of food, whiskey and financial prosperity. People in Greece celebrate in much the same way via the tradition of Pothariko.
- Molten tin: In Finland, residents find the nearest piece of tin to melt. The molten tin is poured into a horseshoe-shaped ladle and then dropped into cold water. The random shapes that form are interpreted in various ways to indicate what’s to come in the year ahead.
- Feats of skill: Single women in Belarus spend New Year’s Eve hoping to increase their odds of getting married. Ladies compete in games to see who will be the next to get hitched. These games may include seeing who will be the first to be approached by a rooster. The winner is the next person to become betrothed.
- Appliance toss: In downtown Johannesburg, South African locals throw old appliances out of their windows to ring in the New Year.
- All things round: Round-shaped foods are served and consumed in the Philippines. Filipinos believe round shapes that represent coins symbolize prosperity.
From suitcase to fistfights to eating round fruits, the traditions of welcoming the New Year are varied around the world.