New Year's Traditions Around the World

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It’s easy to become absorbed in the insular realities of western culture. We light the tree, the menorah, we return home to stockinged halls and relish family meals by the fire. But what about how the rest of the world celebrates the holidays and new year? We regale ourselves with bottles of champagne fit to burst, buy bags full of confetti, tune into NYC’s live stream of a fast falling silver ball, grab someone close by and kiss them, and wake up groggy in the morning holding fast to the promises that we’ve made for ourselves about what changes we’d like to see for both ourselves and others in the coming days of newfound opportunity.

That being said, here is how the rest of the world chooses to bring in the new year.


Each NYE in many households in Sweden, including mine, is punctuated with watching an old film, “Dinner For One” that has been airing every year for 30 + odd years at precisely the same time each NYE. It’s a somewhat banal comedy about a butler serving his master. He keeps chugging from a bottle of whiskey each time he makes his rounds. Unfortunately for him, there’s a lion hide rug spread across the dining floor and it’s adorned with a rather large lion’s head. Each time the tragic butler comes back from the kitchen, he has to delicately try to get over the lions head. And the drunker he gets, the harder it becomes for him to avoid tripping. Needless to say, the film totally goes for a true guttural experience and I can’t remember a time when my family and I didn’t cry tears from laughter while enjoying it. – Ubah Bulale


One thing I’ve done since I was a child is in South America is wear a brand new pair of yellow panties on NYE,  it’s good luck. If you’re ever anywhere in South America right before NYE the streets are lined with vendors just selling yellow undies. – Elena Childers


In Denmark they pile broken dishes on the doorsteps of friends and neighbors, to throw out the shitty old year and bring in the new. In other words, the one with the fewest broken plates on their doorsteps is the biggest la-hooser with no friends. – Taia Handlin


In Austria, New Years is celebrated by finding good luck in a Suckling Pig. Now, that’s my kind of holiday! The Suckling Pig is served for dinner, and accompanied by Peppermint Ice Cream for dessert, which is meant to represent good fortune. Ice cream and pork seem like a pretty good combination, and I can’t really think of a better way to bring in the New Year than eating! – Rebecca Chodorkoff


In Finland, it is an ongoing tradition to foreshadow the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water and then interpreting the shape that takes form after the hardening (comparative to reading tea leaves, Harry Potter anyone?) A heart or ring shape means a wedding, a ship signifies travel, and an animal shape either a pig or cow implies an abundance of food. – Cassidy Colarik


One of the oldest traditions for Russian New Year celebrations is the appearance of Father Frost and his granddaughter Snow Girl. Father Frost came from a pagan god of winter and has become a Santa Claus figure in modern Russia. He brings presents to children, but since it was so nice of him to stop by–you have to perform for him, which could be a dance, a song or a poem. Sometimes drunk uncle Vanya decides to perform, too. – Irina Groushevaia