New Year’s Eve. While you’re clinking a glass of bubbly and contemplating the countdown kiss to end all countdown kisses, somewhere across the world there’s a person swinging a blazing ball of fire around while he parades through town pretending to be a Viking. Because that’s how they do it in certain parts of Scotland.
Even though different cultures celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next in varying ways, New Year’s celebrations are almost always tied to age-old traditions, and with these the hope for better luck, more money, more love and greater happiness in the coming year. Here’s our list of the quirkiest New Year’s traditions from around the world.
Watching the ball drop in Times Square, New York
Sure, you’ve seen this in every other rom-com, right? But did you know that the ball in question is illuminated by over 32 000 LED lights and is made up of 2 688 Waterford crystals? Impressive. What would be more impressive, though, is understanding why tens of thousands of Americans brave the winter cold to stand in the crowded square and watch it fall.
Wear colourful underwear in Latin America
In Colombia, Bolivia and Mexico, you need to make sure that the colour of your underwear matches your expectations for the coming year. Wearing yellow underwear at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is considered very lucky. You’ll be even luckier if someone gifts you with yellow unmentionables. In Mexico, however, yellow underwear is considered a sign of regular luck, while red underwear will guarantee super-charged luck, especially in the love department. Hmm, what are your options, really?
Take a walk around the block to bring travel opportunities
While you’re wearing your lucky undies in these Latin American countries, if you carry a suitcase around the block at the stroke of midnight, the new year will bring travel and adventure opportunities. Popular with lovers and newlyweds, this is a hilarious New Year’s Eve tradition to watch. No cheating: make sure your suitcase is properly packed for travel.
Show your friends you love them by smashing plates on their doors
The Danes know how to have a smashing good time on New Year’s Eve. It’s considered lucky, in Denmark, to jump off furniture at the stroke of midnight, as it symbolises eagerly jumping into the new year and chasing bad luck away. In some parts of Denmark, it’s good practice to smash your crockery against your friends’ and neighbours’ doors. In the light of the new day, the family with the most broken pieces of china piled beneath their front door can boast having the most friends.
In another banging tradition, the Irish celebrate the new year by bashing bread against the wall. Not just any bread, but Christmas bread. Believe it or not, this custom is said to frighten away evil spirits and bring good luck into the house. The bread symbolises abundance, ensuring that the household has plenty of food in the coming year.
Score a husband with this failsafe trick
If you’re an unmarried Irish lass – and once you’re done banging your bread, of course – be sure to place a sprig of mistletoe beneath your pillow. This will bring you true love and marriage in the new year.
Make sure you know a lot of tall, dark, and handsome men…
The Celts are clearly a superstitious lot. According to the First Footing tradition in Northern Ireland and Scotland, the first person to cross your threshold in the new year determines your coming luck. If a tall, dark and handsome man walks through your door, you’re in luck (obviously). If, however, a red-haired woman or girl enters, you’re in for a time of grief. (Not just superstitious, but a misogynistic redhead-hating bunch too, no?)
Cock-a-doodle-doo, let’s see who’s getting married
On New Year’s Eve in Belarus, unmarried women hide different items around their houses while their friends ransack the place in search of the trinkets. The woman who finds a ring will marry a handsome man, while the woman who finds bread will marry a rich man. In another get-married-quick game, piles of corn are placed in front of each unmarried woman and a rooster is brought in and released. The first woman approached by the rooster will be the first to marry in the new year.
Have a grape new year!
When the clock strikes midnight in Spain, get those grapes in your mouth. If you can eat one grape for every chime of the clock (twelve in total), you’ll have good luck for each month of the year. Insider tip: buy small, seedless grapes.
Out with the old, in with the new
In Equador, burning a scarecrow at midnight ensures that all the negative energy of the past year is reduced to ash, while our very own Hillbrow literally chucks out the old (through a window, or over a balcony). While police have attempted to crack down on our crazy inner-city tradition of flinging old furniture into the streets, chances are still good that here and there a dilapidated old refrigerator might find its way through a window.
Did you know?
Kiribati is the first country to welcome the new year, while Baker Island, in the United States, is among the last.
Whether you ring in the new year with colour-coded knickers or great balls of fire, we wish you a happy and prosperous 2016!