As the year is winding down, a lot of us are thinking of how we’ll ring in the new one. Although many cultures celebrate New Year’s Eve on December 31, we don’t all celebrate the holiday the same way. Here are some of the most interesting New Year’s traditions from around the world:
– Special underwear. In a number of countries, including Turkey, Spain, and several places in South and Central America, the most important thing you’ll wear to ring in the new year is…colorful underwear. Red tends to be the go-to color, symbolizing luck and love – definitely things everyone wants in the year to come. In some of these countries, you also have the option of donning gold undies, to bring prosperity and riches in the coming year.
– Twelve grapes. Another Spanish tradition is putting a grape into your mouth for each chime of the clock up to midnight on New Year’s Eve. Ideally, you’ll end up with a mouthful of twelve grapes – though it’s hard to believe most people could achieve that. The prize if you do? Twelve months of good luck.
– Temple bells. Speaking of chimes, in Japan, Buddhist temples ring their bells one-hundred-and-eight times just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, symbolically banishing the religion’s one-hundred-and-eight human sins and earthly desires, giving practitioners a fresh start in the new year.
– Breaking plates. People in Denmark, on the other hand, are more likely to hear the sound of plates breaking. It’s a New Year’s custom for Danes to throw dishes at the doors of their friends and loved ones. Forget Facebook – finding a big pile of broken flatware outside your door is a way to know you have lots of friends.
– Tossing furniture. People in Johannesburg, South Africa, take the object-throwing to the next level, though, by throwing old, unwanted furniture out of their windows!
– Pack your bags. In one of my favorite traditions on this list, many people in Ecuador and Colombia celebrate the new year by running around their block with an empty suitcase at the stroke of midnight. This is supposed to bring them a year full of travel.
– Talk to the animals. I said that the last tradition was one of my favorites because I can’t choose between it, and this Romanian New Year’s custom: There, it’s said that animals can talk for a brief time just after the new year is rung in. Many people with pets or farm stock will lean close to hear any messages their animal friends might have. If you do hear an animal talk, it means good luck for the new year. Just exchanging a few words with my cat would be totally worth it, promise of good luck or no.
If you’re an American, you may be reading this list and thinking that it’s a shame we don’t have any unusual New Year’s traditions. But that’s where you’re wrong. As I learned when I moved to France, no other country is quite as into dropping things, from a giant ball or peach, to an actual opossum, to celebrate the new year. And although New Year’s resolutions are a custom dating back to ancient Babylon, we seem to be the only culture that still takes them pretty seriously (even if we don’t always keep them….).
One New Year’s resolution we’d love to see kept is more medical facilities providing interpreters for patients who need them. Luckily, this seems to be a trend.
However you celebrate, Happy New Year from all of us here at aiaTranslations!