Quirky New Year celebrations: 8 traditions from around the globe

From plate-smashing in Denmark to suitcase racing in Costa Rica, discover 8 mind-blowing celebrations that'll redefine your 2024.

Quirky New Year celebrations: 8 traditions from around the globe

Friday December 29, 2023,

6 min Read

So, another year just passed by in a jiffy and you still couldn’t tick off your 2023 resolutions? Never mind; the author too is guilty as charged! * smiles sheepishly *

As people gear up to jot down their New Year resolutions, revel in festive parties till dawn, relish sumptuous feasts, and wish fervently for love, luck, happiness, and wealth, it's clear these customs are deeply entrenched in New Year traditions across the world. Yet, the fascinating array of celebrations worldwide might take you by surprise!

Each country holds dear its unique New Year customs, all rooted in bidding farewell to the past or evil and embracing good fortune ahead. However, the ways these traditions unfold vary immensely from culture to culture. This year, let's embark on a journey to uncover how diverse cultures embrace the arrival of the new year.

While travel might not be feasible for everyone, why not partake in one of the myriad New Year traditions observed globally? Trust us, they require minimal effort but promise a potentially significant impact!

From the Brazilian ritual of offering white flowers to the Sea Goddess to the enchanting bear dances in Romania, here's a compilation of 8 distinctive New Year's Eve celebrations from around the world. Join in and discover the rich tapestry of global traditions as we welcome 2024 together!

People rejoicing on new year's eve

Plate-smashing, Denmark

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, fling those chipped and unused plates stashed in your kitchen and throw them at your friends' and neighbours' doors. In Denmark, this act symbolises an age-old belief–the more broken dishes discovered outside your doorstep the next morning, the greater the influx of friends and luck in the coming year.

While this tradition has become less common nowadays, why not ignite some smashing fun and revive this custom? Danes participate by hurling plates and crockery against the doors of loved ones, a symbolic gesture to usher in good fortune. Throughout the year, these surplus plates are gathered, and on the 31st of December, they become a cheerful artillery. A great way to get rid of unused crockeries and release any pent-up frustration!

In addition to this unique ritual, Danes enjoy a traditional New Year's Eve meal consisting of boiled cod with mustard, followed by delightful marzipan doughnuts known as ‘kransekage’. 

Bagging luck through a handsome hunk, Scotland

Welcome good fortune with a Scottish tradition– 'first-footing.' 

According to this age-old practice, the luck of your household for the upcoming year is believed to be influenced by the first person crossing your threshold in the new year. Ideally, a tall, dark, and handsome visitor is considered exceptionally lucky, especially if they arrive bearing the traditional gift of whisky.

Nevertheless, which lady on earth wouldn’t love the footing of a tall, dark, handsome man?

Burning an effigy, Ecuador

Light up luck in Ecuadorian style by torching scarecrow effigies. 

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve in Ecuador, families gather outside, setting fire to these symbolic effigies. It's not about anger or dark magic, but about bidding farewell to the past 12 months' troubles and warding off negativity. Each family crafts their own effigy, often resembling famous personalities or politicians, before sending them up in flames. 

Much like our very own Dussehra, this fiery tradition aims to banish ill fortune, paving the way for a fresh start and a year full of luck and joy.

Placing mistletoe under your pillow, Ireland

Seeking romance in the new year? In Ireland, tuck mistletoe leaves under your pillow on New Year's Eve for a touch of luck in love. Singles also place sprigs of mistletoe, holly, or ivy beneath their pillows, hoping to find their future spouse. 

Who knows you may find your "the one" in 2024!

Tossing out old furniture out of windows, Johannesburg

In Johannesburg, South Africa, tossing old furniture out of windows on New Year's Eve signifies a symbolic farewell to the past and a warm embrace of fresh blessings. 

Earlier, residents would gather old sofas, fridges, and more in anticipation of this event, marking a gesture of casting away old troubles for a new beginning. 

While once a lively street celebration, this tradition has faced criticism due to safety concerns, making it less prevalent now. Though the tradition has dwindled, though the sentiment behind it remains a powerful symbol of renewal.

Ringing 108 bells, Japan

As the Japanese New Year ‘Oshogatsu’ approaches, Buddhist Temples across Japan chime 108 bells at midnight. This ritual aims to cleanse individuals from the 108 evil passions, believed to be present in every person. 

The bell tolls symbolise purification from the previous year's wrongdoings. Traditionally, 107 rings occur on the last day of the year, with the 108th signalling the arrival of the New Year. This ancient bell-ringing ceremony known as ‘Joya no kane’, reflects Buddhist beliefs and is a pivotal part of New Year's Eve in Japan.

Racing suitcases around the block, Costa Rica

Kick off the new year in Costa Rican style by grabbing a suitcase at midnight and dashing around the block to fuel your 2024 travel aspirations

This tradition is believed that the farther you run, the broader your travels in the coming year. From toddlers to high-heeled aunts, everyone in the family partakes in this tradition. Amidst cheering neighbours and fireworks illuminating the sky, it's a lively way to ring in “Feliz Año Nuevo!”

Growing with onions, Greece

In Greece, hanging onions on your door is a New Year's tradition inviting positive growth ahead. On New Year's Day, children are roused with a tap on the head from these onions, believed to bestow long life and good health.

But why onions? Some persist in growth even when removed from the soil, signifying resilience in winter. This act on New Year's Eve symbolises rebirth and renewal.

The tradition specifically nods to the squill, resembling a large onion and is known for its continuous growth even when uprooted. By hanging an onion or squill on their door, Greeks seek the plant's resilience and good luck.

Here's to a prosperous 2024 filled with a healthy dose of sanity. Remember to set those New Year's resolutions–every bit of good luck counts!

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