Yesterday I was talking to one of my inspirational friends, who is a mom to two young kids, a full-time art teacher, and runs her own small business called Dee’s Signs. We were talking about what we were going to do to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Her daughter had come home from school with a story about throwing a coin into water and ringing a bell to welcome the new year. This made me start thinking about the diversity of traditions around the world.
I believe it’s important to share unique traditions, points of view, and cultures with our kids. Exposure to diverse experiences is but one step on a path to kindness and respect. It also leads to tolerance, appreciation, and peaceful acceptance of everyone we encounter, despite differences in beliefs. Therefore, I decided to write a post on the 25 most fascinating New Year’s traditions around the world. Thanks to Dee and her sweet daughter for the inspiration for this post! By-the-way, it appears that the theme of coins (prosperity), water (cleansing of sins), and bells ringing (warding off evil) are prevalent in many cultures all over the world.
25 Fascinating Ways to Ring in the New Year Around the World
Before reading, please note my disclaimer.
1. Literally, ring in the New Year. In Japan, they ring a bell 108 times, which stems from the Buddhist belief that it cleanses us of the 108 evil desires humans suffer from.
2. Choose the right color of underwear. In Latin American countries like Mexico, Bolivia, and Brazil, the color of your panties is significant. Red will bring love and passion, yellow leads to luck and success, green means well-being, and white stands for peace and harmony. Choose that underwear carefully this year!
3. Break some plates, watch 1963 short film Dinner for One, and literally jump into the new year. In Denmark, supposedly people throw plates at their friends’ front doors to symbolize friendship and luck. In the morning, the larger your pile of broken dishes, the more luck you have. They also watch a short film (Dinner for One) just before midnight and jump off a chair into the new year.
4. Stuff 12 grapes in your mouth. In Spain, at the stroke of midnight, people put one grape in their mouths at each chime of the clock. It is supposed to bring luck.
5. Throw your furniture: In South Africa, they throw unwanted furniture out their windows as a way to start fresh.
6. Talk to your animals. In Romania, the farmers try to talk to their animals. If they can hear their animals talking back, it brings them bad luck.
7. Take the Polar Bear Plunge. I remember friends of mine in Wisconsin doing this in Lake Michigan New Year’s Day. They just run into the freezing cold water. These plunges take place all over the world, mostly to raise money for charity. In the Netherlands, they call it the Nieuwjaarsduik (“New Year’s Dive”).
8. Swing balls of fire (or don’t!). In Stonehaven, Scotland as part of their Hogmanay celebration, they swing balls of fire to burn away the bad spirits from the past year. It apparently dates back to the time of the Vikings.
9. Wear, eat, and carry things that are round. In the Philippines, circles (the shape of coins) represent wealth in the coming year. They carry coins, wear polka dots, and eat 12 kinds of round fruits.
10. Run around the block with your suitcase. In Ecuador, people are supposed to run around the block with a suitcase at midnight. This is supposed to give you success in your travels in the New Year.
11. Plant a tree under the ice at the bottom of a lake. In Russia and Siberia, professional divers plant New Year’s trees under the water in frozen lakes. Check out the article about the world record, here.
12. Paint your front door red. In China, right before the Chinese New Year, many people will paint their doors with a fresh coat of red paint for good luck and happiness for the coming year. Red generally means abundance and fortune.
13. Splash water on each other. In Myanmar, in order to cleanse away sins of the past year, people splash water on each other. *Note that they celebrate the New Year in the month of April (their hottest month).
14. Hang an onion on your door. In Greece, onions are a symbol of growth and rebirth. They hang onions on their doors for good luck in the New Year.
15. Kiss! This tradition dates back to Roman times during their lavish parties; however, English and Scottish folklore also say kissing would set the tone of your relationship for the coming year. In Venise, they have mass kissing sessions in St. Mark’s Square.
16. Bang pots and pans. Noisemaking is used in many cultures (US and Philippines are two) to ward off evil spirits.
17. Throw white flowers into the sea. On New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro, people gather to offer white flowers and other gifts to Yemanja, the Afro-Brazilian queen of the sea, so she will bring energy and strength.
18. Bang bread on the walls or doors. In Ireland, it is tradition to bang bread on the doors to ensure bread will be plentiful and to ward off evil spirits.
19. Cut an apple in half and predict your future. In the Czech Republic, one of their traditions is to cut an apple in half. If the center reveals a star shape, you will have good luck.
20. Celebrate in a cemetery. In Talca, Chile, many spend New Year’s near their deceased relatives in the cemetery. This is meant to bring them peace and good fortune in the new year.
21. Burn a scarecrow. In Ecuador, they have an interesting tradition in which scarecrows are burned to ward off all negativity of the previous year.
22. Do a bear dance. In Romania, people wear bear costumes and do a bear dance to ward off evil.
23. Sprinkle salt on your doorstep. In Turkey, they sprinkle salt on the porch as a symbol of abundance.
24. First footing. In Scotland, a tall, dark man is supposed to be the first person of the year to cross the threshold of your home. He should bring a lump of coal, salt, a piece of shortbread and whiskey for good luck.
25. Go to bed early. Oh wait, is that just lame people with small children like us???!!!
The world is such an interesting, beautiful, and diverse place!
I admittedly don’t know nearly enough about both worldwide cultures and those within our own nation. But, that is part of what I hope to achieve through this blog and my New Year’s Resolution. If you’re interested in embarking on a journey with your children to learn more about race, tolerance, cultural diversity, and acceptance, the following are some good resources. More on this in a future post, too!
- Teaching Tolerance: This organization’s mission is “to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and support equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. We believe that schools must educate all students for full participation in a diverse democracy.”
- On the Teaching Tolerance website, they mention UNESCO’s Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. I liked the definition of tolerance they pulled: “Tolerance is respect, acceptance, and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience, and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference.” (page 9).
- Culturally Responsive Teaching: This is an article about building a sense of community amongst children by providing diverse reading materials, an array of experiences, and diverse authors in your library.
- The blog from the Lee & Low website is a great source of information on race, diversity, education, and children’s books.
- Kid World Citizen: A website by a mom from a multicultural and bilingual family. She shares resources to increase global and cultural awareness. Her article on empathy and another on diversity in your home library are two I love.
- Read this post on the Diverse Book Finder.
- Look at Upworthy’s list of books to diversify your children’s libraries
I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about our amazing world and will continue to do so with your little helpers!
What are you doing to celebrate New Year’s this year?
Much love, and Happy New Year!