New Year’s Eve Customs All Around the World

my worldcultural awareness

Way back when, as 1993 turned into 1994, I was a college student spending a semester abroad in Seville, Spain and dutifully (read: joyfully) taking in the local culture and traditions. In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, revelers eat one grape for each of the twelve bell tolls that mark midnight, to bring good luck for the12 months of the New Year. Better yet, it is customary to wash the grapes down with wine. Who was I to buck Spanish tradition?

Almost two decades have passed since I’ve been to Spain or celebrated a New Year’s Eve in this festive way, but I still think about taking part in that great custom every year on December 31st and my stories about that night inspired my young daughters to ask about different New Year’s Eve traditions around the world. As we found out, the tradition of courting good luck and/or warding off evil occurs all around the world on New Year’s. I’m not sure I’d ever find anything as amusing as eating a mouthful of grapes for good luck, but we did discover some good-fortune-hunting gems through our research, including:

  • Switzerland—They believe good luck for the New Year comes from letting a drop of cream land on the floor on January 1st.
  • Scotland—Tradition holds that the first footer (aka: the first person to set foot into your home on New Year's Day) had the power to determine your family's luck for the rest of the year. According to the tradition, a tall, dark-haired man is said to be the most welcome first visitor, especially if he brings a gift. Per centuries old lore, a gift of a loaf of bread or a shovel of coal would foretell abundant food and warmth for the household all year along.
  • Germany—According to custom, they drop molten lead into cold water at the New Year. People try to tell the future from the shape that forms. Most hoped for shapes include a heart or a ring shape, which could foretell a wedding.
  • China - New Year’s revelers watch spectacular street parades in which dancing dragons and lions proceed through the crowded streets. Traditional dragon and lion dances symbolize warding off evil spirits before the start of the New Year.

What do you do to ring in the New Year?

However you and your loved ones celebrate New Year—and welcome good fortune—I wish you all the best for a 2011 full of joy, peace, happy memories, good health and love.

By Signe Whitson, LSW.  Need help communicating with your tweens or teens?  Check out the Passive Aggressive Diaries blog by Signe.  It is dedicated to helping improve communication in families, schools and even workplaces by bringing to light common passive aggressive statements.  She shares how to recognize them, how to handle them and how to avoid them.  Her advice has been brought to you by My Baby Clothes Boutique - the home of everything that makes babies look even more adorable - sweet baby clothes with matching baby headbands, layettes with matching newborn hats, and even baby gifts for every mom.
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