New Year’s Traditions From Around The World

January 1 offers everyone a chance to start over and look ahead to the next 12 months, which of course, we always hope is even better than the year that just ended. Virtually every culture marks the start of a new year in a special way, as it is widely accepted that a new year brings good luck, prosperity, and peace to everyone.

Here is a sampling of how some cultures around the world ring in the new year:

Oshogatsu (Japan):

The New Year is a very important occasion in Japan, and the celebration begins early. Throughout the month of December, a number of Bonenkai, or forget-me-not parties, are held to forget the grudges from the previous year and prepare to welcome in the new year. At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times as an attempt to eliminate 108 kinds of human weaknesses. New Year’s Day is a national holiday in Japan.

Hogmanay (Scotland):

Scotland is the birthplace of the most famous New Year’s song, “Auld Lang Syne”, penned by Scottish poet Robert Burns. The same country celebrates Hogmanay, a festive and joyous occasion that has maintained a number of old traditions. One of the oldest is “first-footing”, when neighbors visit each other and offer well wishes for the new year. In the past, it was custom to bring along a small gift. Edinburgh holds a huge Hogmanay street party on New Year’s Eve; it is the largest in the country.

Grape-eating (Spain and Mexico):

At the stroke of midnight, Spaniards and Mexicans start to eat 12 grapes and make a wish on each one as they eat it. The idea is to eat all 12 before the clock finishes chiming. The grapes are meant to bring 12 months of good luck and happiness.

Husbands wanted (Belarus):

Unmarried women compete in different games and tournaments to determine who will get married in the coming year. Some of the traditional games are quite unique—one involves putting a chicken in front of each woman. Whomever the chicken runs to is supposed to be the next one to get married (similar to the bouquet-throwing tradition at American weddings).

Regardless of culture, most areas of the world mark the start of the new year with lavish fireworks displays or preparing lavish meals, whether at home or going out to eat. These meals may consist of cultural dishes or foods that are meant to bring good luck in the coming year.