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Each country in the world has its own special or unusual New Year’s customs. Some customs are shared; others vary from country to country. Some are amusing and many are intended to bring good luck during the new year ahead.
New Year’s Customs
One of the unique New Year’s customs in the world is that in Spain, it is customary to eat 12 grapes – one at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Each grape represents good luck for one month of the coming year. In bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, people gather in the main squares to eat their grapes together and pass around bottles of cava.
Burning “Mr. Old Year” is a New Year’s tradition in some cities of Colombia. It requires the participation of the entire family. It is a lot of fun; they fabricate a big stuffed male doll that represents the old year. Then they stuff the doll with different materials. Sometimes they put some little fireworks in it to make it more exciting at the time they burn it. Also, they put things inside that they don’t want anymore, objects that can bring sadness or bad memories.
These things will burn with the old year, meaning that they want to forget all the bad things that happened during the past year. They dress the man in old clothes from each member of the family. Then, on New Year’s Eve at midnight, they set the doll on fire.
This symbolizes burning the past and getting ready to start a happy New Year without bad memories of the past.
The Danish get a jump on cleaning out their cupboards by taking any chipped or unused crockery and shattering it against their friends’ and families’ doors to ring in the new year.
The more plate pieces piled at your doorstep, the more popular your family is … which may or may not make the next day’s hungover cleanup more manageable.
While the Thai New Year isn’t until April 13, their celebratory festival, called Songkran, is just too good to pass up: a water fight. Yes, a full-on water fight where major roads are blocked off and Thai locals and, as you’d imagine, loads of visitors use buckets, fire hoses, water guns, and even elephants to throw water at each other. Inner child, rejoice, and purchase Songkran plane tickets immediately.
6. South Africa
In Johannesburg, South Africa, locals ring in the new year by throwing old household items out the window—a quite literal “out with the old” type of symbolism. The tradition has gotten a bit out of hand in recent years, as residents in high-rise buildings have taken to tossing furniture, appliances, bottles, and, well, just about anything out the windows. As you’d expect, this tradition comes with its set of annual injuries, but the local government is doing its part to keep the New Year’s Eve celebrations safe.
In Finland, people predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening.
A heart or ring means a wedding, while a ship predicts travel and a pig declares there will be plenty of food.
Another of the unique New Year’s customs in the world is that Romanian farmers spend their New Year’s trying to communicate with their livestock, earning good luck if they succeed. And the unusual Romanian New Year’s traditions don’t end there — people also throw coins into rivers for luck and dress up in bearskins then dance and play instruments from door to door, a ritual that’s intended to ward off evil spirits.