A group of friends celebrating with a 2017 sign

New Year Traditions Around The World

26 December 2016
Read Time: 3.4 mins

Regardless of where you come from or where you are in the world, come December 31 we'll all be wishing 2016 a fond farewell before ringing in 2017. Some of us may be toasting the New Year with a glass of our favourite champers, while others will be eating, singing, throwing, splashing, watching, wishing, swimming ... the list goes on. Each country and/or region has their own way of welcoming the New Year and we've collected a few of our favourite traditions from around the world.




Japan literally rings in the coming year. Across the country, Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times at the stroke of midnight. That's one ring for every human sin in the Buddhist faith. The tradition is meant to banish the 108 worldly desires, ridding citizens of their sins from the previous year. 


New Year is known as Hogmanay in Scotland, which features a number of local traditions. One in particular is first footing where the first person to enter your home after midnight brings a gift for prosperity and good luck in the new year. Traditional gifts included a lump of coal, silver coin, whisky or bread.

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Some Estonians aim to eat seven, nine or 12 meals on New Year's Eve. Not only are these seen as lucky numbers, but it was thought that the meals would give you the strength of that many men in the following year. Each meal should not be finished though. Some food should be left on the plate as a gift for ancestors or spirits who visit the house on New Year's Eve.




You may have heard of New York's famous ball drop in Times Square, with onlookers counting down the last 10 seconds of the year both in person and on TV, but did you know that many states and cities across the US have their own versions of the drop? For example, Idaho drops a giant potato. In Miami, a bright neon sign in the shape of an orange with sunglasses drops. Georgia hosts a peach drop and Chicago drops a star. The list goes on.


Spanish New Year revellers traditionally eat 12 grapes. That's one grape with each bell strike at midnight. The practice was established in 1909 and was thought to bring prosperity and ward off evil spirits.


In Denmark it's tradition to gather up all of your chipped or broken crockery and throw them against your friends' and neighbours' doors. Breaking these plates and dishes on their doorsteps is a sign of affection and lasting friendship.



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Many Russians observe a period of silence in the last 12 seconds before midnight, making their wishes for the new year. Some write their wishes down on a scrap of paper and set it alight. The burning scrap is dropped into a glass of champagne and, after the clock strikes 12, the champagne must be downed before 12:01am.


Germans used to celebrate the coming new year with a Berliner (jam filled doughnut). Some people would fill a couple of the Berliners with mustard instead of jam and serve them all together. If you bit into the mustard Berliner, it was thought to be an indication of bad luck in the new year. Today, it's more of a practical joke than a sign of impending luck or lack thereof.


Many people celebrating in Rio de Janeiro by heading to the beautiful beaches to ring in the New Year. It's traditional to dress in all white to bring peace in the coming year. It's also traditional for people to throw white flowers into the sea as an offering to Iemanja, the goddess of the waters in Brazilian myths.




Way up in the northern reaches of the globe, it only makes sense that traditions might have something to do with the freezing temperatures. That's definitely the case for Canada where members of communities across the country take part in the annual New Year's Day Polar Bear Swim in which they plunge into the bodies of surrounding chilly waters.


Come midnight in England, it's common for couples to exchange a kiss at the stroke of 12. While the tradition has spread around the world, it dates back to old English and German folklore and is thought to set a positive tone for your relationship through the coming year.


It's common in Singapore to write down your wish for the coming year on a 'wishing sphere'. At the stroke of midnight, the large white inflatable balls with upwards of 500,000 wishes written on them are set afloat in the waters of Marina Bay. Participants come from around the world to take part in this unique tradition.



A photo posted by Tamara, Germany (@tamipalme) on



In Finland, many people like to practice molybdomancy. This is the act of melting 'tin' (lead) in a small pan on the stove. Once it is molten, it is thrown from the pan into a bucket of cold water. The resulting shape of metal is then analysed to see what the new year will bring.


The Water Festival is held every year in Southeast Asia as a New Year celebration. It's common for people to sprinkle or pour water on one another as part of a cleansing ritual to start the coming year. As the stroke of midnight draws closer, celebrations tend to get much more boisterous and it's not uncommon to be doused with water by a stranger as a sign of blessing and good wishes.

Carlie Tucker

Travelling is for discovering the unexpected. From fantastic meals in ramshackle joints to stumbling upon a best kept secret, I love those fortuitous travel moments that couldn't be planned if I tried.