20 Lucky New Year’s Traditions from Around the World
Looking for every—and any—New Year's charm that'll bring you the luck you lust after? Take inspiration from these January 1 customs from around the world and we promise you'll have your best year yet!
Lucky New Year
Every year, New Year’s Day is considered to be a new beginning—we change our calendars, make resolutions, and reflect on the previous 52 weeks. And cultures all over the world have all sorts of different traditions to start that new beginning on the right foot. Some traditions might look a little different this year due to the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t celebrate in your own home. For a little extra good fortune in the new year, give these lucky traditions a try—at the very least, it can’t hurt! Here are some inspirational New Year’s quotes to help you ring in 2021.
Denmark: Smash plates
In every household, there are some dishes, plates, and cups that, while perfectly acceptable, somehow never get used. Those in Denmark know how to put them to good use. Tradition says you should—affectionately!—shatter them against the doors of your friends’ homes to ward off bad spirits and welcome happier vibes in the chaos. Another ritual that doesn’t require cleanup is jumping for joy at midnight—literally. As the clock ticks closer to midnight, Danish folk will try to climb to the highest peak they can—on top of chairs, tables, you name it—and jump into the New Year. (Psst: Just make sure you’re not too high and hurt yourself, because hey, crutches make it tough to begin a new lap around the sun!) Don’t forget to make your New Year’s resolution—here are the resolutions CEOs are making for 2020 (that are totally within your reach).
Thailand: Throw water on your friends
Make sure to wear your swimsuit if you’re ringing in the new year in Thailand. And we don’t mean December 31, when lantern festivals freckle the country, but rather the Songkran Festival from April 13 to 15 for the Thai New Year. During this fun time that attracts crowds worldwide, look out for endless buckets of water flying in every direction. In what feels like a water fight reminiscent of summer camp, the tradition is drenched with good will: The act of dunking water over someone is seen as a sign of respect, sending the sentiment of good wishes for the year ahead and symbolically washing away any bad luck. For good fortune in the New Year, carry these lucky quotes with you.
South Africa: Throw furniture out the window
You better look up if you’re touring South Africa for New Year’s Eve—as it’s not confetti that’s sprinkled from the skies, but, um, furniture that catapults to the ground below. Though this is not a widely adopted practice throughout the land, certain areas believe the physical act of tossing unused goods from their window sends a signal to the universe that you have let go of past grievances and are hopeful for the future. Keep to the more touristy sections of major cities, as some rough neighborhoods can take this ritual to the extreme, pushing large, heavy appliances—such as fridges and microwaves—off balconies. Want some real luck? Play the most common winning lotto numbers.
Scotland: Be picky about your first house guest
Who is the first person to knock on your door on January 1? If it’s your local deliveryman greeting you with greasy takeout to cure those one-too-many-glasses-of-champagne blues, you’d better hope he’s a good person if you’re living in Scotland. In Isle of Man, Scotland, and some regions in Northern England, the idea of “first footing” is practiced and trusted. Here, locals seek out a tall, dark man to be the first person to enter their home in the New Year, often carrying specific gifts—like salt, shortbread, or whiskey—to bless the home with good luck for the next 12 months. In other areas, you might not seek out a specific person to walk across your threshold, but rather, be specific about who you invite. And if you’re selected? You better bring one of the traditional gifts to bring your pal or family member good vibes. Don’t believe in luck? These 20 true stories might change your tune.
Ecuador: Burn away your grievances
For a warmer New Year’s celebration, you might turn your attention south to Ecuador, where beaches and bonfires abound … literally. Here, locals celebrate Los Anos Viejos, which translates to “the old years”—a tradition in which you want to destroy any of your past demons. You’ll see many locals create dolls that resemble scarecrows, some decorated with signs, descriptions of their sins, or images of sinister people. They’re often filled with sawdust, newspaper, or clothes, and they might be finished off with a mask, creating quite the sight for uneducated tourists. As the clock hits midnight and celebrations begin, the front yard creations are caught on fire, symbolizing the fiery, smoky embers of one year and inviting good spirits to circle in the new. Check out the best destination to ring in the new year in every U.S. state.
Spain: Eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds
You better come hungry for the New Year’s Eve celebration you were invited to in Spain if you want to earn the good graces of locals. Spaniards subscribe to the superstition that the last 12 seconds of the year can determine your fate for the next year, all dependent on how many grapes you can chow down in a short time. In many regions, you won’t see a 10-second countdown to a ball drop, but rather, a 12-second countdown, with each ding representing a month. The idea is to get through 12 grapes before midnight, awarding yourself with luck. Just don’t forget to chew—and go for seedless if you can. Serve up these 13 New Year’s Eve foods meant to bring luck.
Philippines: Find 12 round fruits
For a favorable fortune in the Philippines, it’s not size or color or texture that matters, but rather shape. Avoid rectangles and triangles if you’re visiting this country for its New Year’s celebration, and instead, be on the lookout for anything circular in fashion. The idea is that circles represent coins and bring wealth, so the more circle shapes you can collect, the better. Most locals will attempt to get to 12 round fruits, each representing a month of the year. If you can get to that infamous big 1-2, tradition says you’ll be raking in the dough! On your own for New Year’s this year? Here’s where you can rock New Year’s Eve alone.
Brazil: Wear white
It’s no secret that Brazil likes to party, but when it comes to New Year’s, it’s less about the glittery mini-dresses and sequined skirts. Instead, for a year that will promise you luck, wonder, and adventure, your outfit only needs to have one characteristic: white! This is the case even in the party capital of Rio. This doesn’t mean you can’t have accessories with colors—like a bikini, undergarments or trunks underneath your outfit for an impromptu night swim. Each color has a different meaning though, so choose wisely. While green is about health and yellow brings money, red attracts romance and purple will flood you with inspiration. This year, find out what “Auld Lang Syne” actually means.
Colombia: Lug around an empty suitcase
While you might steal a kiss from your partner (or a love interest) at the stroke of midnight, if you’re in Colombia, you’d better have on your running shoes. Here, if you want a year that’s full of jet-setting luck and wanderlust, the start of the new year is a race to the airport. OK, not really, but sort of. Many Colombians will take an empty suitcase and run around their block as fast as they can. Legend says if you’re in good spirits and do this the right way (perhaps without tripping?), your next lap around the sun will guarantee at least one traveling adventure. This is the best New Year’s resolution, according to your zodiac sign.
Japan: Ring a bell 108 times
There’s nothing quite like greeting the New Year a full 12 hours ahead of your friends and family in the United States. So why not take full advantage of the fun, interesting customs that come with Japanese culture? For those ringing in the start of a new 365 days in Tokyo, Kyoto, or any other region in Japan, listen for the bells at midnight. Here, tradition dictates that Buddhist temples ring bells 108 times, based on the belief that it brings cleanness. And no, not via that junk drawer you should have cleaned out a decade ago, but in your heart, mind, soul, and body. It’s called joya no kane, and the reasoning behind the specific number is attributed to the 108 types of earthly desires humans are thought to have. By ringing the bells, you are said to leave your old, sad, or frustrated self behind and sing in your new year with a clear mind and happier resolutions.
South Korea: Soup for the soul
There’s nothing like a hot bowl of soup to warm the soul in the winter, but South Korea’s tteokguk, dish made of broth, rice cakes, meat, and vegetables, is imperative to the country’s New Year traditions. South Korean New Year, known as Seollal, usually falls in late January or early February, and the soup is believed to bring those who eat it good luck in the new year, according to Culture Trip. Which of these movies with major New Year’s scenes have you seen?
Turkey: Smash pomegranates
This one feels festive but messy. In Turkey, locals smash pomegranates on their doorways for New Year’s. The belief is that your good fortune in the coming year is directly proportional to the number of seeds that fly out of the fruit upon impact, so put some aggression behind that throw! Find out the best places to go for family-friendly New Year’s celebrations.
Finland: Cast some metal
If you’re feeling crafty, do as the Finnish do to predict what is to come in the year ahead. In Finland, locals cast molten tin into water, carefully inspecting the shape it takes once it has hardened. An animal might mean there will be an abundance of food, while a heart could forecast love in the coming year.
Germany: Eat a sugar pig
Germans believe that pigs equal wealth, so for New Year’s, it’s commonplace to eat glücksschwein, a pig-shaped candy, for a dose of luck in your wallet. Made from marzipan, they’re both adorable and sweet, and they’re thought to bring good luck for the year ahead. Make your own luck with these 13 tips from people who actually kept their New Year’s resolutions.
Romania: Toss a coin
It might seem counterintuitive to literally throw your money away, but in Romania, that’s exactly what they do for good luck at the start of a new year. Don’t worry—they aren’t emptying their bank accounts. However, it’s believed that tossing a coin in a river will bring you luck throughout the year. So will dropping a ball, we seem to think. Here’s the history of why we drop a ball to ring in the new year.
Bolivia: Bake coins into sweets
Bolivia has a sweet (and profitable) New Year’s tradition. Coins are baked into cakes for a festive activity. The person who receives the slice with the coin is thought to have a prosperous year ahead. Baked goods and good luck? That does seem like an embarrassment of riches. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you make these 19 New Year’s resolutions that experts say are impossible to keep.
Italy: Eat lentils
Move over, pasta. It’s lentils that take center stage on New Year’s in Italy. These legumes are thought to bring good luck for the coming 365 days, thanks to the fact that they resemble coins. According to Culture Trip, the lentils are typically paired with pork sausage, a fatty meat rich in flavor that also evokes a prosperous sentiment.
Burma: Wash away bad luck
The Burmese take part in the Thingyan Water Festival at the start of their new year, which occurs in April, to wash away any bad luck they may have previously experienced. During the Buddhist holiday, the streets of Burma are busy with revelers basking in sprinklers to ensure plenty of good fortune in the future. Check out these quirky things people drop instead of a ball to ring in the new year.
Estonia: Eating for seven
If you think Thanksgiving consists of a gluttonous meal, wait until you hear what Estonians do for good luck on New Year’s Eve. Their tradition is to eat at least seven meals on December 31 (though some consume even more). According to custom, this means that they will harness the strength of seven men in the new year. Plus, if you celebrate with a bounty of food, the abundance is thought to carry into the next rotation around the sun. Do you own any of these unlucky things you might not want to keep in your home?
Ireland: Bang bread against the walls
Forget coming together to break bread, the Irish believe in banging their carbs against the walls on New Year’s. The act is supposed to chase away bad luck and evil spirits, enabling good luck to be invited in. It’s also believed that this will help bring a bounty of bread and food in the coming year. Now, see what 2021 has in store for you based on your Chinese zodiac sign.
- University Post: “Seven Danish New Year traditions”
- The Atlantic: “The Joyful Splashing of Thailand’s Songkran Water Festival”
- Slate: “Start the New Year Off Right With Scotland’s “First Footing””
- Life in Ecuador: “Ecuador New Years Eve”
- Food Republic: “12 Grapes At Midnight: Spain’s Great New Year’s Eve Tradition, And Superstition”
- Tagalog Lang: “New Year’s Eve in the Philippines”
- New Year’s Brazil: “New Year’s Traditions in Rio, Brazil”
- See Colombia: “The 7 Best Colombian New Year’s Traditions”
- Japan Today: “Japanese New Year: Traditions, countdowns and fireworks”