The world is a wonderful and varied place, filled with beautiful and unique cultures, and they all celebrate the turning of the year differently. Understanding how the new year is marked around the world can give you a great insight into the customs and traditions of a particular country – plus, it’s fun to try celebrating in a totally new way.
New Year celebrations are incredible to experience, so if you find yourself in another part of the world during that time, you should absolutely seek them out. To help you out, and maybe influence your next trip and give you some amazing photo opportunities, we’ve put together a quick dive into some of the different ways the new year is celebrated around the world.
Watching the ball drop
Perhaps the most famous New Year’s celebration is the ball drop in Times Square, New York. It sees over one million visitors come to Times Square every year – and over one billion people tune in from around the world to watch it.
Starting at 11:59PM the ball begins to descend on a flagpole atop the One Times Square building. It is joined by a booming ticking clock and, at around the 10-second mark, a chanting countdown that echoes throughout the streets.
It is truly atmospheric and there’s nothing quite like hearing a million people shouting and cheering in unison.
Firework displays are a key feature in many New Year celebrations. From the UK and Australia to Dubai and France, there are so many countries that put on these displays to welcome in the new year.
One of the most over-the-top displays occurs at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (the tallest tower in the world). The fireworks are set off from over 20 different rooftops to create a display that engulfs the entire city.
In the UK, London sets their display above the River Thames. The water creates an exceptional show as it reflects the vibrant colors, lighting up the night sky and creating a bright and powerful display that can be seen for miles. The display is so popular that it has become a ticketed event in recent years.
Jumping into the ocean
While fireworks and countdowns are common around the world, some New Year celebrations are a bit more unique. You might have heard of people jumping into the sea on New Year’s Day – it’s a popular tradition in parts of the UK – but you may not have heard of Brazil’s unique spin on it.
If you find yourself in Brazil during the turn of the year, you’ll notice lots of people dressed in white, congregating around the beaches. The tradition is to jump over seven waves while throwing flowers into the air and making a wish. It is believed that the goddess of the waters will grant whatever wish they have.
While the freezing water might turn some people off, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And if you don’t want to brave the waters, you’ll still have plenty of photo opportunities. Choose the best one and send a personalized postcard to your friends back home to show them what they’re missing.
Known as las doce uvas de la suerte (the 12 Grapes of Luck), this Spanish tradition dates back to at least the late 19th century. 12 grapes are eaten to match 12 bell chimes that signal the beginning of the new year.
While not the most exciting tradition, it has become a big part of New Year celebrations around the world. According to those that participate, eating the grapes will bring a year of good luck and prosperity. To others, the grapes are eaten to help ward off witches and other evil entities – the only excuse you need to join in.
The destruction of plates and dishes may not seem like the most traditional New Years celebration, but somehow the Danes have managed to turn, what is essentially, vandalism into a caring and affectionate act.
If you woke up on New Year’s Day and opened your door to find 50 smashed plates on your porch, you might assume someone had it out for you. But in Denmark, this means you’re one of the best and luckiest people in town. In fact, the more smashed plates, the better! Although we’re not quite sure who has to clean up all the smashed china once the morning is over, so maybe they’re actually the unluckiest? Just make sure you don’t try this one with an unsuspecting neighbor.
In a similarly destructive manner, over in South Africa, people throw their unwanted furniture out the window. Getting rid of their unnecessary clutter symbolizes a fresh start. Hopefully they open the window beforehand.
Throwing bread against the wall
A rather unconventional celebration comes from Ireland, where people bang on the walls of their houses with bread. Supposedly this chases all the bad luck out of the walls, which allows the good luck to settle in.
Some traditions say it also ensures your family will have plenty of bread to eat during the coming year, but if that’s how the bread is going to be treated, there might not be much left over to eat.
It might be unusual, but it’s a belief held by many families. And if it brings them happiness and luck, maybe it’s a tradition we should all give a go.
Buddhism is one of the major religions in Japan so many of its beliefs and practices have found their way into most corners of its society. An important belief in Buddhism is the 108 defilements of the mind. These are all the impure or unwholesome qualities that your mind possesses.
During the New Year celebrations (which last three days), a bell is rung 107 times, with the last bell rung on New Year’s Day itself, bringing the total to 108. This signifies that you are now cleansed of all of the problems and worries that had afflicted you during the previous year.
The new year is a time for hope – and a time to look forward to what the future might bring, while leaving behind the worries and stress of the past. In India, this is signified by burning a giant old man made of hay.
Why you ask? Well to signify the sorrows and hardship of the year gone by being burnt away before the new year begins, of course. The tradition dates back to 1924, and usually attracts crowds of around 50,000 people. Many of them also write notes expressing their reasons for the pain and suffering they’ve felt, which are then attached to the old man shortly before it’s burnt.
Wherever you celebrate the new year, you’ll find unifying feelings of renewal and casting aside the pain of the past for the hope of the future. Let the people in your lives know about the experiences you’ve had with a postcard, or simply send a personalized card wishing your friends and family good fortune in the year to come.