Eating grapes, smashing plates, or burning scarecrows are only weird New Year’s Eve traditions to some, but centuries-old customs to others. Here’s our pick of ten peculiar traditions around the globe!
Twelve Grapes of Luck
In case you’re currently in Spain, make sure to acquire some grapes by December 31. An exceptional grape harvest in Alicante back in 1909 is the source of one New Year’s Eve tradition in Spain, the legacy of some vine growers who only tried to earn an extra buck. In Spain, and some Latin countries, it’s a tradition to eat 12 grapes - one for each month of the upcoming year, to secure prosperity - one grape with each bell strike.
If you find yourself in the Bahamas, you will stumble upon Junkanoo, a festival with several origin stories, however, the most popular one dates back to the 18th century, when slaves were allowed to leave plantations to celebrate Christmas as a community. This noisy and colourful parade, full of dancers and musicians and costumes, has become a New Year’s Eve tradition in the Bahamas.
In case you’re in a mood for some old-fashioned prophecies, celebrate New Year's Eve in Germany where people melt small pieces of lead in a spoon over a candle, then pour the liquid into cold water. Your shape will reveal the kind of year that awaits you - star means happiness, cross death, crown wealth...
Mexico is a country of colourful history, so colours play a big role during this time of the year as well. The residents of Mexico, as well as some other Latin countries, believe the colour of your undies will determine what kind of year you will have. Red will bring love and romance, yellow wealth and success, green well-being and nature, white peace and harmony… if you’re currently in Mexico, choose the colour of your undies carefully!
Danes hoard their chipped china all year long so they can smash it on their friends and neighbours doors on New Year's Eve. And while smashing something on someone’s doors may be considered unlucky somewhere else, in Denmark the bigger pile of broken china you find in front of your doors the next morning, the more friends and good luck you will have in the upcoming year. So, if you’re a foreigner in Denmark, don’t let the sound of plate breaking on December 31 surprise or scare you!
In case you find yourself in Tokyo on December 31, make your way to the Zojoji Temple to witness their bell ringing tradition. In Japan, they ring the bell for 108 times - according to the Buddhist tradition, there are 108 human desires, thus causes of suffering. It’s believed that ringing the bell for 108 times dispels negative emotions and mentalities.
In Ecuador, people build scarecrow-like dolls of notable public figures - stuffed with newspapers and dressed in old clothes, with a fitted mask in the end - and burn them. Burning the old year is meant to destroy all the bad things from the passing year and cleanse for the new year. You have some bad spirits to burn? Head to Ecuador!
Furniture Tossing and Mass Kissing
We know Italians are passionate people, however, we didn’t know that residents of Naples toss their old furniture from their balconies - out with the old, in with the new - or that smooches on Piazza San Marco in Venice are a regular occurrence on the New Year’s Eve.
If you’re a foodie who has no idea where or how to spend New Year's Eve, head to Estonia where the tradition is to eat the lucky number of meals - 7, 9 or 12. According to the tradition, eating 7, 9 or 12 times means you will have the strength of that many (wo)men in the upcoming year. However, make sure to leave some leftovers on your plate to make the ancestral spirits happy!
Your country, region or city has a New Year’s Eve tradition worth mentioning? Share it with us in the comments!