Unique New Year’s Traditions

December 24, 2021

New Year’s is quickly approaching. It’s a time for resolutions and new beginnings. We each have our own favourite traditions of ringing in the New Year. For many of us, it’s hosting dinner or a late-night party for family and friends to countdown the final minutes to midnight together. For others, it’s attending an outdoor event and watching spectacular fireworks displays. These traditions are quite common across Canada; however, there are also many other unique and fascinating traditions around the world for ringing in the New Year to help bestow good fortune and prosperity for those who partake in them.

One of the most fascinating (albeit risky) New Year’s traditions can be found in Scotland. It is the tradition of New Year’s Hogmanay (which loosely translates to “great love day”) fire festivals, the most famous of which, taking place in Stonehaven. It can involve everyone singing “For Auld Lang Syne” and parading through the streets, while trained professionals swing poles with fireballs over their head, eventually tossing them into the sea just before midnight. It’s been said the tradition goes back more than 100 years with its origins rooted in a pre-Christian ritual intended to cleanse and thwart evil spirits.

Another interesting New Year’s tradition is eating 12 grapes. This tradition, largely associated with Spain, but may also be found in Mexico, other Latin American countries, and the Philippines. It is said to involve eating 12 grapes, one each second after midnight, to bring good luck and prosperity for the year ahead. The concept is that each grape represents one month of the year and must be eaten immediately at the stroke of midnight. If all 12 grapes aren’t consumed within that small window of time, it represents bad luck. Some accounts state that a wish can be made for each grape for each chime of the clock at midnight, which is followed by saying “Happy New Year.”

A unique New Year’s tradition that can be found in many countries, including Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, and Peru, is donning red undergarments. It has been said that the colour red is chosen because it represents love and fertility and therefore, young men and women will typically wear undergarments in this colour on New Year’s Eve. It has also been said that throughout Latin America, those seeking financial prosperity might choose to wear green undergarments or another colour that’s reflective of what the wearer might wish for the year ahead. In Bolivia, yellow undergarments are a popular choice for good fortune in the New Year.

Throwing furniture out the window is another unique and established New Year’s tradition in South Africa. It’s been said that when the clock strikes midnight, everyone throws furniture, appliances, and anything else unwanted, out the window. This represents a fresh start for everyone who participates in the act. However, some sources cite that tossing furniture from tall buildings has been condemned and as a result, the tradition isn’t as widely practiced as it was at one time.

Smashing dishes is a unique and popular New Year’s tradition observed in Denmark. According to some sources, broken glass brings good luck and as a result, those who participate in the tradition will smash their (broken or unused) china and leave it on a friend’s doorstep. It’s said such an act will bring them good fortune in the New Year. In addition, the bigger the pile of broken glass on a homeowner’s doorstep, the more popular that person is seen to be.

There are many unique, interesting, and wonderful New Year’s traditions that we enjoy here in Canada and all around the world. No matter how you choose to ring in the New Year, I sincerely wish you and your loved ones a Happy New Year and all the very best for 2019!