Special New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World
by Julia Shin
As Edith Lovejoy Pierce, a 20th century poet, once said, “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” Many people look forward to the new year and are excited for New Year’s Eve, a famous celebration, on December 31st. Many people attend New Year’s Eve parties where people eat, drink, and spend time with friends and family. In hopes of a good new year with good health, happiness, and prosperity, many countries have unique and fun New Year’s Eve traditions. Some unique traditions around the world include smashing plates and throwing white flowers into the ocean.
1. Denmark: Smashing Plates
If you visit Denmark on New Year’s Eve, you may be surprised to see smashed china at people’s front doors yet Danes find pride in broken dishes at their front door. In fact, the bigger pile of dishes in front of your house indicates more luck you will have in the upcoming year! A popular Danish tradition is to throw china at your friends’ and neighbors’ front doors. Many unused plates are saved for this unusual occasion. Smashing china, particularly plates, leaves behind any hostility or ill feelings before the new year.
2. Brazil: Throwing white flowers into the ocean & wearing colorful underwear.
White represents peace and, for this reason, white is incorporated into New Year’s Eve traditions in Brazil. For example, white is worn on New Year’s Eve and white flowers and candles are thrown into the ocean. Throwing flowers and candles are offerings given to Yemoja, the African Goddess of the Ocean (who is honored in both Brazil and Africa). These offerings are given in hope of a good new year. Although people in Brazil may wear white, they are still colorful! On New Year’s Eve, people’s underwear should be new and colorful. Different colors of underwear have different meanings. For example, yellow represents wealth, white means peace, pink indicates love, and red represents passion.
3. Spain: Eating grapes in hopes of a good new year.
When the bell strikes midnight, Spaniards will eat exactly 12 grapes, one grape at each of the 12 bell strikes after midnight. Losing count of how many grapes are eaten or bell strikes means bad luck. This tradition began in the 1800s when vine growers created this tradition to sell more grapes near the end of the year. However, this tradition became more popular and was later cemented as a yearly tradition. Therefore, supermarkets and street vendors sell little plastic bags of 12 grapes to sell to locals. Spaniards hope this tradition will bring a year of good fortune and success.
4. Czech Republic: Cutting Apples
An apple is cut on New Year’s Eve which determines everyone’s fate nearby. When cut, if the apple’s core looks like a star, everyone will gain happiness and health. However, if the core looks like a cross, then bad things are expected to come. For example, someone may fall ill at the New Year’s party.
So while many of you are familiar with the tradition of watching the ball drop in Times Square, enjoying the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, and making resolutions for the new year, perhaps consider incorporating some of these fun traditions into your celebration next year!