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New Year celebrations around the world vary hugely from country to country. And what you deem to be 'normal' in your own home country might raise a few eyebrows in another part of the world. From dropping ice creams to gobbling grapes, there's a quirky celebration or habit everywhere you look - and as a proud community of home swappers, we're delighted to celebrate these differences! So here are just some of the strangest New Year's Eve traditions from around the world.

Strange new year traditions in Denmark

Strange new year traditions in Denmark
No New Year’s Eve party is complete without a silly hat.

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

 Strange new year traditions in Spain
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

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

Strange New Year traditions in Colombia
Take a walk with your suitcase for more travel opportunities.


As a Spanish-speaking country, it’s no surprise that some of Spain’s new year traditions are replicated in Columbia – 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! 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

New Year’s Eve around the world is celebrated in so many different ways – many of those celebrations involving 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 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

Strange new year traditions in Ecuador
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 effigy 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. 


Strange new year traditions in Finland

Strange new year traditions in Finland
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 slowly 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 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

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. Yes please to two days of celebrating in a warm climate!


Strange new year traditions in Switzerland

Strange new year traditions in Switzerland
Head to Switzerland if you can handle wasting ice cream.

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! One slightly unusual rumour 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

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

Strange new year traditions in The Philippines
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 the 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 best 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 that 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

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.


Skim reading to get to the good stuff? 

Then here's a useful round-up of some of the stangest new year traditions around the world... 


 Strangest New Year's Eve traditions around the world

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