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12 strangest New Year's Eve traditions
Destinations & Inspiration

12 strangest New Year's Eve traditions

Suzie Dalton
By Suzie Dalton - 12 minute read

From cel­e­brat­ing at mid­night with a glass of fizz, to don­ning your best red under­pants, New Year cel­e­bra­tions around the world are spec­tac­u­lar­ly diverse! At Love Home Swap, we love cel­e­brat­ing the many cul­tur­al tra­di­tions that exist in our mem­bers’ coun­tries, so we’re tak­ing a look at our favourite New Year tra­di­tions around the world.

Strange new year traditions in Denmark

Broken plate

The Danes have a smash­ing time on New Year’s Eve!

Home to some of the most fun new year cel­e­bra­tions around the world is Den­mark – because we all know the Danes are a par­ty-lov­ing bunch! And you could also accuse them (affec­tion­ate­ly) of being noisy too! Cel­e­bra­tions begin at 6pm with the Queen’s speech, and the two nation­al anthems (yes TWO) are sung at mid­night. So far, so good. But the noisy aspect hap­pens when Danes jump’ into the new year by jump­ing off their chairs at mid­night, while the tra­di­tion of throw­ing plates at the doors of friends and rel­a­tives is a lit­tle sur­pris­ing. And let’s not even men­tion the fact that many peo­ple choose to bring in their mail­box­es so that young trou­ble-mak­ers don’t try to blow them up with fireworks! 

On a slight­ly less noisy note, small table bombs con­tain­ing glit­ter and con­fet­ti tend to leave the car­pets cov­ered in sparkles, while the delight­ful tra­di­tion of wear­ing sil­ly hats to new year’s par­ties is a joy. Our advice if you’re vis­it­ing Den­mark for a home swap this new year? Make sure you pack your wack­i­est hat, and try not to smash your host’s crock­ery or coat their home in glitter! 

Strange new year traditions in Spain

Grapes

Ever tried your hand at speed-eat­ing grapes?

New year cel­e­bra­tions around the world don’t get much wack­i­er than in Spain! Look­ing for love? Then make sure you’re wear­ing red pants. Just want good luck? Then make sure your under­crack­ers are yel­low – and make sure the first step you take after the clock strikes 12 is with your right foot! Want to make sure your oth­er half is going to be faith­ful to you? Then drop your wed­ding ring in a glass of Cava – drink the glass in one, and retrieve your wed­ding band. 

And of course, the Spaniards are pas­sion­ate about great food, so it’s no sur­prise that they wel­come in the new year by guz­zling a grape each time the clock chimes in the count­down to mid­night. 12 grapes in 12 sec­onds is a big chal­lenge, but this is said to bring suc­cess to the future 12 months. Try to find some small seed­less grapes if you want to suc­ceed in this – and be care­ful not to choke! 

Strange new year traditions in Chile

Scoop of lentils

Stock up on plain lentils to guar­an­tee love, health and wealth.

Anoth­er Span­ish speak­ing coun­try – so you won’t be sur­prised to hear that some tra­di­tions are shared with their Span­ish-speak­ing neigh­bours. From munch­ing 12 grapes with each chime of the clock (one for each month of the year – eat them all and you’ll have good luck) through to pop­ping a gold ring in your glass of fizz, there are many new year tra­di­tions around the world that are shared extensively. 

But what sets Chile apart is that the wear­ing of yel­low under­wear – ide­al­ly that has been gift­ed to you – will guar­an­tee love (unlike in Spain, where wannabe lovers wear red) while three spoon­fuls of plain lentils should be eat­en for love, health and wealth. In fact, why not increase your chances of a healthy bank account by plac­ing a $1000 Chilean peso in your right shoe – tra­di­tion says that it will mul­ti­ply exten­sive­ly. For a more peace­ful cel­e­bra­tion, some fam­i­lies choose to light can­dles and sleep at the ceme­ter­ies of their loved ones. Want to know more? Then Cul­ture Trip’s arti­cle on the most out­ra­geous tra­di­tions for Chilean New Year is full of use­ful info! 

Strange new year traditions in Colombia

Person with suitcase

Take a walk with your suit­case for more trav­el opportunities.

As a Span­ish-speak­ing coun­try, it’s no sur­prise that some of Columbia’s new year tra­di­tions are sim­i­lar to Spain – one of our favourites being the fact that you should wear a pair of brand-new yel­low pants to ensure suc­cess for the com­ing months! The Colom­bians also favour eat­ing 12 grapes (one per chime) in the final run-up to mid­night – though they pre­fer to do this with cash in their hands, to guar­an­tee finan­cial secu­ri­ty and stability. 

Want to enjoy some new trav­el oppor­tu­ni­ties in the new year? Of course you do, you’re a trav­el-lov­ing home swap­per! Then walk around the streets (or even your home) with a suit­case – this sym­bol­is­es that you’re hop­ing for the chance to trav­el. And to be sure that you’re leav­ing your prob­lems in the pre­vi­ous year, give your home a good clean to sym­bol­ise a fresh start. 

Strange new year traditions in Japan

Silhouette of people watching sunrise

Watch the sun rise with your favourite people.

New year cel­e­bra­tions around the world are often a rau­cous affair, with many coun­tries opt­ing for great food and too much to drink! But in Japan, it’s a more spir­i­tu­al affair, with Bud­dhist tem­ples ring­ing their bon­sho (tem­ple bells) 108 times. This event, (which is known as joya no kane) is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the human desires that lead to suf­fer­ing and pain, so the ring­ing of the bells is meant to dri­ve away these neg­a­tive emo­tions – giv­ing you a bet­ter chance of hap­pi­ness in the next year. And that’s an idea that we’re whole­heart­ed­ly embrac­ing! The good vibes con­tin­ue on New Year’s Day, when peo­ple gath­er for Hat­suhin­ode’ which is the first sun­rise of the new year. Peo­ple also send nen­ga’ New Year’s greet­ing to the peo­ple they love, so the Post Office work extra hard to make sure all of these are deliv­ered on the day.

Strange new year traditions in Ecuador

Masks for effigies

Dec­o­rate your effi­gy with a mask.

New Year tra­di­tions around the world often involve fire in some capac­i­ty – in the Dutch towns of Schevenin­gen and Duin­dorp, huge New Year’s Eve bon­fires have tra­di­tion­al­ly been lit – while fire­works in the world’s biggest cities such as Lon­don, Syd­ney and Paris tra­di­tion­al­ly wel­come in the New Year. But in Ecuador, they take their fiery cel­e­bra­tions to new heights, with a masked dum­my being burnt on the fire. Called año viejo (which means old year’) or monig­ote, the effi­gy is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the pre­vi­ous year’s mis­for­tunes – some peo­ple even stuff the effi­gy with notes detail­ing what went wrong. If the bon­fire isn’t too huge, it’s not unusu­al to see peo­ple jump­ing over the flames. 

And that’s not the end of their unusu­al fun – men often take to the streets dressed in drag to ask for dona­tions (yes real­ly!) while chil­dren block roads with a rope cor­don. Pay them a lit­tle dona­tion, and you can car­ry on with your jour­ney! And just like many of the oth­er Span­ish-speak­ing coun­tries, yel­low or red under­wear should be worn (depend­ing on whether you’re hunt­ing for luck or love) and 12 grapes (or some­times cher­ries) are eat­en at mid­night. Take a look at this great arti­cle by Cul­ture Trip if you’d like to know more about Ecuador’s New Year tra­di­tions.

Strange new year traditions in Finland

Wax candle

For a safer alter­na­tive, try melt­ed wax.

For many years, the Finns have melt­ed a small horse­shoe of tin on New Year’s Eve – the molten tin is then poured into a buck­et of water, and your for­tune is told depend­ing on the shape that it cre­ates. If it breaks into sev­er­al pieces, this is deemed to be unlucky. Some think this prac­tice is out­dat­ed as molten tin can release air­borne lead, so the safe­ty-mind­ed folk at Finland’s Safe­ty and Chem­i­cals Agency have rec­om­mend­ed melt­ing beeswax or sug­ar instead. Quite sen­si­ble too! 

On the theme of safe­ty, did you know that fire­works are only freely legal in Fin­land on New Year’s Eve? For any oth­er time of the year, you need a spe­cial per­mit before you can set them off! Oth­er than that, New Year’s Eve tra­di­tions in Fin­land are reas­sur­ing­ly famil­iar, with locals enjoy­ing great food and Cham­pagne or sparkling wine at mid­night. Sign us up. 

Strange new year traditions in South Africa

Women at house party

House par­ties are a pop­u­lar affair with par­ty-lov­ing South Africans.

Let’s be hon­est, lots of us feel that hav­ing a tidy-up and get­ting rid of old fur­ni­ture is a good way to have a fresh start. But how many of us throw that fur­ni­ture out of the win­dow?! In Johan­nes­burg this is an actu­al thing – but the police aren’t a fan of the tra­di­tion, and have tried to ban it after a few pedes­tri­ans got hurt by falling debris. Ouchy. The rest of the evening is thank­ful­ly less dan­ger­ous, and most South Africans cel­e­brate with impres­sive din­ners, house par­ties and danc­ing – before fire­crack­ers and the church bells declare the arrival of mid­night. Thanks to the warm weath­er, fes­tiv­i­ties often con­tin­ue for a cou­ple of days.

Strange new year traditions in Switzerland

Ice cream on floor

Head to Switzer­land if you’re ok with wast­ing ice cream.

New Year’s Eve around the world is a well-doc­u­ment­ed affair – but even the trav­el experts at Love Home Swap some­times come across a rumour that we can’t sub­stan­ti­ate. So here’s what we know to be a fact. In Switzer­land, you’re encour­aged to get your evening off to a great start with a table bomb! Less alarm­ing than it sounds, a table bomb looks a bit like an indoor fire­work – light the wick, then take a step back, because it will explode’ and release a cacoph­o­ny of par­ty para­pher­na­lia like par­ty hats, masks and stream­ers. At mid­night, the Swiss like to clink glass­es of Cham­pagne, though make sure you look the oth­er per­son in the eye, as it’s rumoured that your love life will suf­fer for sev­en years if you don’t!

But one slight­ly unusu­al rumour that we’re strug­gling to con­firm is that the Swiss are said to drop a dol­lop of ice cream on the floor to wel­come in the New Year – but the accu­ra­cy of this claim has proved to be a chal­lenge to ver­i­fy. So we’re hand­ing over to our Swiss mem­bers here – can any­one con­firm whether or not this hap­pens? Let us know in our Face­book groups (and don’t for­get to share your own unusu­al New Year’s traditions!) 

Strange new year traditions in France

Mistletoe

Wel­come in the New Year with a kiss.

Have you ever been forced to dodge an unwant­ed kiss under the mistle­toe at Christ­mas? Well brace your­self for bad news, because in France it’s tra­di­tion­al to save that mistle­toe smooch for New Year’s Eve – which is fine if you like the per­son who is puck­er­ing up, but slight­ly awk­ward if you’d rather avoid that kiss! 

Oth­er than that, the French enjoy a cel­e­bra­tion that will be very famil­iar to many trav­el-lovers. Start­ing with din­ner with your fam­i­ly and a spec­tac­u­lar feast, the fes­tiv­i­ties cul­mi­nate in a huge noisy cel­e­bra­tion at mid­night. Nurse your hang­over on New Year’s Day by watch­ing the huge parade on the Champs-Élysées on TV – or head to glo­ri­ous Paris to see it in action. And don’t for­get to tip your clean­er, garbage col­lec­tor and post­man to thank them for their hard work the pre­vi­ous year, and get the New Year off to a great start. 

Strange new year traditions in The Philippines

Pineapple

Avoid pineap­ples if you want a stress-free year

What do coins and wed­ding bands have in com­mon? They’re both cir­cu­lar in shape – and they’re a sign of the good things in life, like finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and love. But did you know that Fil­ipinos believe round things sym­bol­ise suc­cess? So while they like to sur­round them­selves with these love­ly lit­tle reminders – they’re also hap­py to go one step fur­ther with oth­er round objects. From wear­ing pol­ka dots on New Year’s Eve to dec­o­rat­ing their tables with round items like grapes, the cir­cu­lar shape is an impor­tant part of their cel­e­bra­tions – though pineap­ples are avoid­ed as their spiky bits rep­re­sent problems. 

Oth­er strange tra­di­tions include encour­ag­ing chil­dren to jump high in the air at mid­night to help them grow taller, and eat­ing sticky rice to ensure their fam­i­ly bonds are strength­ened. Back on the theme of mon­ey, Fil­ipino chil­dren fill their pock­ets with coins, then shake them on the stroke of 12 to bring good for­tune to their household. 

Strange new year traditions in Romania

People watching firework display

See off the pre­vi­ous year with a bang.

There are three key New Year’s Eve tra­di­tions to wit­ness in Roma­nia. First­ly, in the morn­ing, chil­dren knock on their neigh­bours’ doors to recite the poem Plu­gu­sorul, which is meant to bring health and luck to that house­hold. Then in the after­noon, it turns into some­thing of a street par­ty, with per­for­mances of the ani­mal dances. Dressed up in ani­mal cos­tumes, the dance of the bear and the dance of the goat are a treat for the eyes, and they’re meant to ban­ish evil! These cel­e­bra­tions often cul­mi­nate in fire­works. Then on New Year’s Day, don’t be sur­prised if a child gen­tly taps you with a sor­co­va’. This is a stick or twig that has been dec­o­rat­ed with colour­ful flow­ers, and it’s designed to wish you health and luck.

Fancy a jam-packed overview? Feast your eyes on this lovely little infographic...

Love Home Swap Strangest New Years Eve traditions