7 New Year’s Day Traditions From Around The World

Discover unusual New Year’s Day traditions & drinks from around the world and make your celebration a little bit more exciting

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Never have so many hopes been placed on seeing the end of a year as in 2020. We should welcome 2021 and give 2020 our regards with a proper celebration. You might not be going clubbing or getting frostbite in the middle of Times Square this year, but there are plenty of other fun New Year’s Day traditions from around the world that you might find curious—and even decide to try! 

Similarly, travel might not be on the cards in the near future, but you can certainly bring all of your dream destinations to your living room through traditional New Year’s Eve food, drinks and movies. Here’s an idea: Make a list of all of your bucket destinations or countries you have friends in and enjoy a drink when the New Year happens for them

Japan: Slurping Soba After Midnight 

Soba noodles in a bowl with chopsticks and broth on the side
NYT Cooking

In Japan, like in many other countries, the start of the new year signifies the start of a new period in one’s life, a clean slate. It’s customary to welcome the new year with a bowl of hot soba noodles. This tradition is known as Toshikoshi Soba, which roughly translates to “a year-crossing buckwheat noodle.” 

There’s some debate on the origins of this New Year’s Day tradition. Some say the long shape of the noodle symbolizes the crossing from one year to the next. Others suggest that since the noodles are easily cut, they symbolize letting go of last year’s troubles and starting anew.

Whichever theory you believe, make this healthy dish with your family or close friends and take the moment to reflect on the passing year—and hope that the coming year will bring you joy.

Why not accompany your dinner with a cup or two of sake! Remember that traditionally, you shouldn’t serve yourself, only other people. 

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Spain: 12 Grapes in 12 Bell Strikes 

Grapes on the vine
Source: Healthline

Apparently, this tradition emerged when vine growers from Alicante decided they needed to sell more grapes. Nowadays, locals eat one grape with each of the 12 clock strikes following midnight to celebrate New Year’s If you manage to eat all 12 grapes in time, you’ll have a year full of good fortune. Not a bad thing to believe, right? Plus, you get some vitamins.

Spain is also home to world-renowned wines. Replace your Champagne with cava and you’re all set! 

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Colombia: Hopes of Travel and Fortune-Telling Potatoes

Coco Loco cocktail in a glass with a slice of dried pineapple
Source: The Alpinist

Colombia is home to two fascinating New Year’s Eve traditions we think everyone must try. 

On December 31, Colombians place three potatoes—one peeled, one unpeeled and one half-peeled—under their beds. After midnight, they pull out the first potato they grab. A peeled potato means they’ll have money troubles, an unpeeled one promises success and a half-peeled potato predicts, perhaps, the most likely outcome: a little bit of both. 

It might sound stressful, but let us tell you this: During our extensive internet research, we found no indication that using exclusively unpeeled potatoes is against the rules.

Another interesting New Year’s Eve tradition is primarily enjoyed by keen adventurers. To ensure a year full of travel, people take empty suitcases and run through the streets. To get your friends and family in the mood, you might need a strong cocktail. Try Coco Loco!  

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You probably know that Colombia is also famous for fantastic coffee. To keep the party going, consider using your finest brewed joe to create some exquisite coffee cocktails

Denmark: Broken Dishes On Your Doorstep 

Glogg in a Mason jar
Source: Oh Happy Dane

On New Year’s Eve in Denmark, people break dishes on their friends’ doorsteps. The bigger your pile of broken dishes is on the morning of January 1, the more friends you have! Some sources suggest that this used to be a way to leave all quarrels in the passing year and start the new one peacefully. 

Instead of smashing dishes, you may choose to clink bottles of Carlsberg with your friends or neighbors. If New Year’s Eve is chilly where you are, opt for some glogg. By the way, if you like hot alcoholic drinks, check out this post

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Ecuador: Bonfires 

Manigotes in Ecuador
Source: El Comercio

In Ecuador, people burn effigies (known locally as Manigotes) of politicians, celebrities (oftentimes, football players), cartoon and comic book characters and other recognizable figures from the past year. This represents saying goodbye to the old year, and especially to all the bad things that happened. 

If you happen to have a backyard, a bonfire might be a lovely idea. It could also be a good time to incinerate your ex’s love letters. Alternatively, you can cook some delicious campfire recipes and make yourself a fiery drink called Canelazo.  

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Russia: President’s Speech and Burning Wishes

The Kremlin clock in Moscow, Russia
Source: Russia Beyond

New Year’s Eve is the main winter holiday in Russia, so that’s when all the fun happens. Orthodox Christmas is primarily a quiet, religious holiday that is celebrated on the 7th of January. 

One of the most interesting New Year’s Day traditions is listening to the president’s speech. Regardless of how people feel about a specific politician, most Russians would or will watch the president’s speech on TV because it precedes the Kremlin clock striking midnight. When that happens, according to tradition, you have one minute to write down a wish on a piece of paper, burn it, drop the remains in your champagne glass and chug the champagne. If you manage to complete the task during the 12 strikes, your wish will come true.  

Another important tradition is watching the 1976 Soviet romantic comedy, The Irony of Fate. The film is long, and everybody knows it by heart, so it is often left on in the background while everyone’s cooking and decorating.

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Brazil: Jumping the Waves

Caipirinhas on a napkin
Source: Food Network

In Brazil, there are several New Year’s Eve food traditions. Seven is considered a lucky number on New Year’s Eve, so seven grapes and seven pomegranate seeds are eaten to attract fortune and success in all areas of life. 

Brazilians who live on the coast also jump over seven waves as they make seven wishes. If you live far from the ocean or the ocean you live close to is far from warm, enjoy the Brazilian tradition of drinking caipirinhas instead. If you’re having trouble finding cachaça, you can use vodka and make a caipiroska

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