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New Year's Day Around the World

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

It’s that special time of the year again! Entering a new year is always a momentous occasion where we close one chapter and start a new one. We all may be familiar with the fireworks, partying and counting down to the new year with family and friends as common New Year’s traditions but across the world, we can see different ways in which this occasion is celebrated. Here are some unique and peculiar ways the New Year is celebrated in different countries and cultures.


One way Japanese people observe New Year’s Eve is by eating a special dish known as toshikoshi soba. Prepared with buckwheat soba and a hot dashi broth, the dish signifies the crossing from one year into the next. Another way that the Japanese usher in the new year is by throwing bonenkai parties. A literal translation of “forget-the-year party”, bonenkai parties are thrown among different groups of people, be it from college, work or other circles. These parties include a lot of eating and drinking. For bonenkai parties celebrated among co-workers, it is also a chance to put aside their ranks and speak openly about problems at work, allowing them to learn how to make improvements in the workplace for the year ahead. It also gives the chance for co-workers to bond with one another regardless of rank. In the first three days of the new year, it is a tradition for many Japanese people to visit temples and shrines for hatsumode. They do so to pray for a good year ahead.


One unique tradition practised by some people in Mexico is carrying an empty suitcase around the block. This is done to bring good fortune for one’s future travels. Another popular tradition is making 12 wishes for the year while eating 12 grapes within the last 60 seconds counting down to the new year. It is said that if all grapes are eaten within 60 seconds, all 12 wishes made will be granted in the new year. In the spirit of leaving behind the negativity of the year gone by, Mexicans also have a tradition of listing down the bad things that have happened in the past year and burning the list to get rid of negative thoughts and energy.


The Danish have a unique tradition in which they jump from a chair into the new year as the clock strikes 12. It is said that jumping into the new year brings good luck. Another New Year’s Eve staple among the Danish is watching the Queen’s speech. Airing at 6pm on December 31 annually, the Queen’s speech discusses cultural and ethical subjects, encouraging solidarity among the people. This is not the only thing Danish people tune in to their televisions for. Another Danish New Year’s tradition is watching a comedy show 90 års Fødselsdag, also known as ‘Dinner For One’ on Denmark’s national broadcaster. This sketch has been aired annually since 1980 and has taken a special place in the hearts of the Danish, who tune in annually to watch the much-loved black-and-white German sketch.

South Africa

The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival has been an annual tradition in Cape Town, South Africa. Held on January 2 every year, the carnival dates back to Cape Town’s colonial age. Commonly celebrated among the native community of Cape Town, you can see minstrels dressed up in colourful clothing and hats. The carnival remains significant in highlighting racial tensions within the community. In the Johannesburg suburb of Hillbrow, they have the unique and dangerous tradition of throwing their fridges from their balconies every new year, symbolic of renewal and new beginnings. However, this practice has been widely discouraged due to its dangerous nature.


A common practice in Turkey to usher in the new year is smashing pomegranates. This is practised here as pomegranates are a symbol of abundance and wealth in Turkish culture and doing so is symbolic of good fortune. An alternative to this is sprinkling salt at their doorsteps. Opening padlocks and turning on faucets is another tradition in some Turkish households to signify opening them up to good fortune in the year to come. Turkish people also celebrate the new year by playing games of bingo, known as Tombala in Turkey with their friends and family.


In Russia, celebrating the new year is always a momentous occasion. It is customary for new year celebrations to last for two whole weeks. A common tradition among Russians on New Year’s Eve is going to the banya, which is a Russian sauna. They do so to cleanse the body for the new year ahead. One peculiar way in which Russians usher in the new year is by drinking champagne with ashes inside. Ashes of what you may ask? Another unique practice some Russians engage in is writing down their wishes for the new year on a piece of paper, burning it, pouring the remaining ashes into their champagne glasses and drinking it with their champagne to make their wishes come through before midnight.

So, which traditions did you find the most intriguing? No matter how you plan to celebrate New Year’s Day this time, we hope you have a great New Year’s Day celebration. Happy 2022!

By: Daniel Leo


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