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Weird & wonderful New Year traditions from around the world

New Year’s Eve traditions such as sharing a kiss at the stroke of midnight or popping some celebratory champagne are well established rituals used to welcome the year ahead, however, some countries have much more creative celebrations. 


Language learning app Babbel explores five lesser known but memorable New Year’s traditions from across the world.



Ecuador: Effigy Burning

Ecuadorians create elaborate effigies and burn them in the streets at the stroke of midnight in a symbolic cleansing of the old year - año viejo (ahn-yo vee-yeh-ho). If you’re going for extra credit, you can even jump the flames 12 times - once for each month of the year - although you risk joining your offering in the fire!


Spain: The Twelve Grapes

In a tradition dating back to the early 1900s, Spaniards eat a grape with each strike of the bell at midnight to encourage a year of prosperity and ward away witches and general evil. This superstitious tradition makes for a very quiet start to celebrations while everyone focuses on eating their lucky grapes - las doce uvas de la suerte (lass doh-seh ooh-bas de-la suwear-tay).


Netherlands: Taking a New Year’s Dive at noon 

What better way to start a new year than a refreshing plunge into freezing water? The first New Year's Dive took place in Zandvoort in 1960 and has since grown, with thousands of Dutch taking to the mid-winter waters each year. The icy temperatures are a sure fire way to shock the hangover right out of your system (especially if you choose to participate in the nude dive). As a reward for plunging into arctic waters, divers receive some well-earned split pea soup, Erwtensoep (air-ten-soup).


Zandvoort, Netherlands


Scotland: First Foot 

Scots believe that the first person to enter your household on New Year’s Day is the bringer of good fortune for the coming year. However, if you’re a female or a fair-haired male forget about it! The Scottish prefer for the first-foot to be a tall, dark haired man, who is preferably carrying some whisky. The tradition dates back to Viking invasions, where a fair-haired man knocking down your door with tomahawk often brought misfortune and death.


Denmark: Plate Smashing

The Danish spend New Year’s Eve showing their friends how much they’re appreciated by smashing broken china against their doors in a gesture of affection and everlasting friendship. Those with the largest tower of broken plates, glasses, cups and other crockery are considered to be the luckiest because it means that they have lots of loyal friends. Once all of the smashing is done, Danes settle in for traditional New Year’s Eve fare of boiled cod and Kransekage (cran-see-kay) – a towering cake made from layers of marzipan rings.


Do you know of any weird or wonderful NYE celebrations from around the world?


Published: 21 December 2018

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