New Year’s Traditions from Around the World


New Year's Traditions in Times Square

New Year’s traditions might look a little different this year. Even though Americans typically watch the ball drop in Time’s Square, this year it likely won’t be in New York City or from big parties with friends and family. Even though most of us can wait to usher out 2020, it doesn’t mean we can’t still be festive. Whether you’re happy to be home or wish you were somewhere else, it’s a time to keep some traditions alive and maybe add new ones, too. Here are some traditions from around the world you may not have known existed but can start with your own loved ones.

  • In some South American countries wearing colored underwear will determine your fate for the new year. Red underwear means you’ll find love, gold means wealth, and white signifies peace.
  • Greeks consider New Year’s Day to be a day of goof fortune. This lends to many Greeks playing marathon card games while they wait for the stroke of midnight.
  • In Switzerland it’s tradition to celebrate the New Year by dropping ice cream on the floor.
  • Japanese Buddhists believe there are 108 obstacles people face for happiness. In Japan, people ring in the new year, literally. They strike a bell 107 times before midnight, with each strike becoming silent before the next, completing the 108 strike right after midnight.
  • Many countries embrace baking coins into sweets and breads. Whoever finds the coins has good luck for the next year.
  • In the Southern United States, it’s a New Year’s traditions to eat black-eyed peas and cornbread on New Year’s Day. This symbolizes eating frugally, so you can be lucky enough to spend the rest of the year eating lavishly. Just don’t eat anything with wings. According to some, your luck will fly away.
  • In Scotland the first person to cross the threshold of a home in the new year should carry a gift for good luck.
  • In Denmark they save all of their unused dishes and plates until the 31st of December. That night, they affectionately shatter them against the doors of all their friends and family. The more broken dishes you have at your doorstep the luckier you will be in the new year.
  • When the clock strikes midnight, Columbians, Portuguese, and Spaniards they eat one grape per chime. Custom has you make a wish for all 12 grapes, hoping for 12 lucky months in the new year.
  • Columbians also run around the block or carry around a suitcase on New Year’s Eve, hoping the next year brings adventure and travel.