We're winding down 2019 and heading into 2020. For many people, this is a time for cultural traditions to welcome in the New Year.
Not every culture celebrates the beginning of the new year on the same date, but plenty of them share similar activities, superstitions, and celebrations no matter what the calendar says.
Let's explore New Year's traditions around the world!
Plenty of major cities ring in the New Year with fireworks displays. From Sydney Harbor in Australia to Honolulu, Hawaii, the skies are alight with brilliant fireworks as the clock counts down to midnight local time.
Along with all of these booming fireworks, revelers make a lot of noise! In cultures both old and new, ringing bells, beating drums, shouting, and even breaking old dishes helped to drive away bad spirits and bring good luck.
New Year's Food
All across Spain, people welcome the new year by eating 12 grapes at midnight--one grape to bring luck for each month of the coming year.
In the Philippines, families pile fruit on their tables to symbolize prosperity for the new year.
Onions play a part of New Year traditions in Greece. The families hang an onion on their front door as a symbol of rebirth, and parents wake their kids on New Year's day by rapping them on the head with an onion!
Other foods play a big part in New Year celebrations, all for their intended purpose of bringing good luck, health, and prosperity to those at the feast.
Here are some more traditional New Year foods and drinks:
- Doughnuts, or any circle-shaped food to represent the circle of the seasons
- Black-eyed peas and dark leafy greens to usher in wealth and luck
- Rice to promote prosperity
- Wassail, or a similar punch, to salute good health
- Hot, spiced wine or champagne to toast good friends and loving family
First Things First
One interesting tradition from Scotland is called "first-footing." Around the country, families await the first person to cross their threshold after midnight. While everyone is welcome, some are considered lucky!
People who are recently married, new moms, or men who are "tall, dark, and handsome" are often encouraged to be the "first-footers" in Scottish homes for their New Year celebration known as Hogmany.
Another popular New Year's tradition is the giving of gifts to symbolize prosperity and to wish luck on the recipient.
Common gifts include
- gilded coins
- gilded nuts
- shortbread cookies
Many cultures include bonfires as a way to welcome in the New Year. Items representing the old year, such as lists of old habits and past events, or figures modeled after these things are tossed into the fire as a way of saying goodbye to the old, making room for the new.
Since the New Year is a time of "turning over a new leaf" of the calendar, many people set new year's resolutions, or goals, to help them begin a new good habit or end a bad one.
For fun, plenty of cultures include the tradition of trying to predict what will come in the New Year. From guessing shapes of apple peels tossed on the floor to melted tin poured in water, people use these random shapes as indicators of who the person will marry, if they will travel in the coming year, or if there will be a bounty of crops at the next harvest.
Even the weather in the first 12 days of the new year is thought to indicate matching weather in the corresponding month.
New Year's Day
Following the all-night parties, some cities host parades in the days following the beginning of the year.
Some cultures in the cold northern regions of the world use New Year's Day as a time to host a Polar Bear Plunge. Participants leap into ice-cold water both as a way to start the new year fresh and clean and to raise money for charities.
All of these traditions usher in the New Year. Food, feasting, and festivals are our way of honoring the time past and looking forward to what comes next.
Happy New Year to our eat2explore family!