No matter what date is used for beginning a New Year, nearly every country in the world has its particular traditions for welcoming the New Year. From strange rituals, to food, to ancient celebrations – let’s take a look at some of the ways people celebrate.
Universally, rituals and celebrations share the theme of dispelling evil spirits and bringing peace and prosperity for the New Year. Many people share the time with family and friends, but some are downright crazy!
Argentines wear pink undies on New Year’s Eve in order to attract love during the coming year! Mexico and Venezuela prefer yellow underwear and in Bolivia you must change into yellow underwear at the stroke of midnight for good luck in the coming year!
In Australia, the traditional celebration is the ringing of Church bells at midnight – one strike for each month of the year. Many people opt to begin the year with a visit to Church to ask for blessings on the New Year. Along with the ringing of the bells, shouting, singing and general noise-making help celebrate the turn of the calendar. The celebrations continue for six days making Australia a popular destination at this time of the year. Sydney has one of the most spectacular celebrations: more than 8000 fireworks light up the sky around the famous Sydney Harbor Bridge thrilling spectators with an unforgettable display.
While Brazil has its modern party atmosphere and celebrations on Copacabana Beach, there are more traditional rituals as well. Like Australia, New Year’s falls mid-summer in Brazil, so people flock to the beaches, dressed all in white (symbolizing peace and prosperity) to jump seven waves and toss flowers into the ocean as a gift to ‘lemenja’, the Goddess of the Sea. People also light candles in the sand a tradition that comes from the mix of African and Indigenous cultures throughout the country.
The tradition of fireworks at midnight is fairly universal, and Canada is no exception. The light and noise are used to banish evil spirits to make way for good fortune and prosperity in the New Year. But in Quebec, people also spend the entire night ice fishing with friends. The long night makes for a quiet New Year’s Day which is spent resting and recuperating.
In Chile, people gather in a local churchyard by candlelight and listen to music to be close to their departed loved ones when bringing in the New Year. You sweep your house clean, to clear out all the evil spirits and down a teaspoon of lentils at midnight to assure work and money for the coming year.
The Chinese New Year changes every year according to the Chinese calendar and is considered to be the most important holiday of the year. It is celebrated the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar. Red is the preferred colour, doors are painted red, people wear red clothing and gifts of money are given in red envelopes. Houses are lighted with colorful lights and fireworks are used to ward off evil spirits.
Réveillion, as the celebration of the New Year is called in France, is one of the oldest holidays and continues until January 6. While there are numerous public celebrations, most people celebrate more privately, with a special dinner called le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre for family and invited friends. The dinner, which typically includes pancakes and duck, ends when a festive cake called la galette des rois is served.
When in Germany, part of the New Year’s Eve celebration is the watching of an old (1920’s) British comedy sketch entitled Dinner for One. The 18 minute, black and white film features an elderly lady who hosts a dinner party for her friends. The problem is that she has outlived all the friends and her butler proceeds around the table pretending to be each of them in turn.
Single Irish women may have good luck in love in the coming year if they sleep with mistletoe under their pillows. Meanwhile, banging the walls with loaves of bread will scare away any evil spirits who might be lurking about.
If kissing is your thing, head for Venice, Italy where, in St. Mark’s Square, under a massive fireworks display, everyone kisses for the New Year.
The Japanese have numerous traditions including ringing the temple bells 108 times and hanging straw ropes on their doors to ward off evil spirits, decorating with lobsters to symbolize long life and growing and displaying bamboo in their homes to represent honesty. The Japanese celebration lasts two weeks during which people pray for their dead family and friends and to have a good crop.
In New Zealand, revelers parade through the streets banging pots and pans. It is believed that the ruckus will scare away evil spirits.
In Romania, one must listen to the animals. Purportedly they gain the ability to speak on New Year’s Eve. If you cannot understand them, the coming year will be filled with good luck. Now does that really make sense?
Russians make a wish for the New Year and write it on a piece of paper. It is then burned, the ashes placed in a glass of champagne. The champagne must be consumed just before the New Year begins in order for the wish to come true. There is a Russian saying: “As you meet the New Year, so shall you spend it.” So traditionally, the people celebrate in style surrounded by family and friends.
Tomorrow we’ll continue with more celebrations around the world. But for now, it is New Year’s Eve …
Happy New Year!!!