6 New Year Traditions from Around the World

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New Year traditions that all Americans are familiar with include the ball drop in Times Square, the Tournament of Roses Parade, fireworks, year-end lists, New Year resolutions, a toast and/or a kiss at midnight, Auld Lang Syne, and predictions for the year ahead. Here are some other customs you might not be as familiar with.

1. Años Viejos

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In Ecuador, December 31st is time to ceremonially burn an effigy named Años Viejos, or Years Old. The dummies are made of old clothes and sticks or sawdust for stuffing, and often made to look like someone who has made a negative impact during the year, such as a politician. See pictures of many different os Viejos here.

2. First-Footer

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Scotland marks Hogmanay on December 31st, although the celebration lasts several days, with customs varying by locality. One of the customs associated with the new year is that of the first-footer, or the first person to visit your home after midnight on New Years Day. It is good luck if your first-footer is a tall handsome man with dark hair, preferably bringing a small gift. Remnants of this custom are found in America, too -I have a relative who gets very upset if the first person who calls her in the new year is a woman.

More traditions from all over, after the jump.

3. Twelve Grapes

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New Years Eve is called Nochevieja, or the Old Night in Spain. The tradition is to eat twelve grapes at midnight, as the twelve chimes ring in the new year. Try stuffing twelve grapes in your mouth in twelve seconds, and you'll see how funny this can be! The twelve grapes are also eaten at midnight in other countries that have a Spanish influence. In Spain, wearing red underwear for the new year brings good luck; in other countries, the underwear should be yellow. No doubt, clothing vendors cater to these traditions.

4. Olie Bollen

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In the Netherlands, New Years Eve is a relaxed family holiday until midnight, then it's party time in the streets with fireworks and revelry! The Dutch serve doughnuts or fritters called Olie Bollen, traditionally served for breakfast or snacks on New Years Eve and New Years Day. Make your own Olie Bollen with this recipe.

5. Black-Eyed Peas and Hog Jowls

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In the American South, you must eat a meal of pork (originally hog jowl), black-eyed peas, and greens on New Years Day to ensure a good year ahead. Hog jowl symbolizes health (believe it or not), black-eyed peas represent good luck, and greens (originally cabbage, but mustard or collard greens are used also) symbolize money. Local variations include ham hocks, ham, or bacon for hog jowl, saurkraut, cabbage rolls, Hoppin' John, or other soups or casseroles that contain these items.

6. Dinner for One

In Germany and Scandinavia, TV stations broadcast Dinner For One, a British comedy sketch about a woman celebrating her 90th birthday. The sketch has nothing to do with the New Year holiday, but has become such a tradition that it landed in The Guiness Book of World Records as the most repeated TV show ever! In the routine, Miss Sophie has outlived her friends, so her butler plays the part of each at the birthday dinner, which means he must drink multiple toasts. The most popular 18 minute version with a German introduction can be found at Google Video. YouTube has a 10 minute version of the same sketch, seen here.

What traditions do you observe for the New Year holiday?

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December 30, 2007 - 11:41pm
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