Money makes the world go around, but it hasn’t always
Fireworks, champagne, and well-meaning resolutions are traditional ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the United States and elsewhere. Many countries choose to get crazier (and — let’s face it — a little weird) for the sake of tradition. Here are 21 of the most unusual New Year’s traditions from across the globe.
1. Denmark: Danes literally leap into the New Year by jumping off chairs at midnight. This tradition aims to dispel bad spirits and usher in good luck. Danes also toss plates and glasses against the doors to relatives’ homes.
2. Estonia: A largely bygone tradition, Estonians used to eat seven meals on New Year’s Day. This custom brought good luck and prosperity (not to mention a great deal of food) for the next year. In contemporary times, Estonians have abandoned this tradition for alcohol-based parties. Oh well.
3. Finland: The Finnish people cast molten tin into water and observe the shape of the metal after it hardens. They believe this can determine the coming year’s events. An animal shape forecasts food, a heart shape signifies love, etc.
4. Switzerland: The Swiss do the unthinkable at midnight by tossing ice cream onto the floor. This act symbolizes a coming year of abundance.
5. Thailand At the annual Songkran festival, the world’s largest water fight takes place. The tradition takes place during Thailand’s hottest time of the year, so it’s both fun and practical. Passerby are fair game for water guns, hoses, and buckets of water.
6. Peru: During the Takanakuy Festival, the citizens of this small village voluntarily enter into fist fights to end unfinished business. The goal of this tradition is to leave arguments in the old year and start the next year fresh.
7. South Africa: Especially in Johannesburg, South Africans follow a tradition of chucking old appliances out the nearest open window.
8. Panama: According to tradition, effigies of famous people are burned in New Year’s bonfires. Effigies are meant to represent the past, and burning them wards off ghosts of the old year. These figures can range from politicians like Fidel Castro or George W. Bush to the Toy Story characters.
9. Colombia: Those Columbians who wish to travel in the next year carry their suitcases around the block on New Year’s Eve.
10. Scotland: The tradition of “first-footing” is strong throughout the country. According to lore, every first person to cross a home’s threshold must bring a gift of good luck. The best luck of all, naturally, arrives through a gift of whiskey.
11. Chile: Families follow the tradition of spending the night in cemeteries in order to feel close to those relatives who have passed into the afterlife.
12. Bolivia: For good luck, Bolivians insert coins into their baked goods. The people who find the coins (either) receive good luck (or broken teeth) in the coming year.
13. Belarus: Unmarried women gather together to play games that predict weddings for the coming year. Such games include scavenger hunts for bread and rings; another game involves releasing a rooster to see which women can woo it to their pile of corn first.
14. South America: In many countries, partygoers will don colored underwear according to their hopes for the new year. One wears yellow to wish for prosperity, and red is for those looking for love.
15. Ireland: Perhaps in a fit of drunkenness (too much Guinness, mate), the Irish rid the coming year of evil spirits by banging bread loaves against walls.
16. Siberia: In one of the weirder (and more dangerous) traditions on this list, Siberian men hop into frozen lakes while holding tree trunks.
17. Philippines: The display of round fruits and other foods (which represent coins) is thought to bring luck and prosperity for families. The tradition of wearing polka dots follows the same line of thought.
18. Spain: Those who quickly eat 12 grapes at midnight will enjoy good luck for the entirety of the next year.
19. Japan: The Japanese have many traditions. They wear costumes for the coming year’s zodiac animal (2015’s sign is that of the sheep). They also ring bells 108 times to signify the Buddhist belief in cleanliness. Finally, good luck comes to those who smile as the year changes over.
20. Puerto Rico: In much of the country, citizens believe throwing water out of windows will ward off evil spirits.
21. France: Here’s the best tradition of all. The French enjoy eating a large stack of pancakes (or crepes) on New Year’s Day. (This act is not to be confused with the official French Pancake Day, which arrives on Feb. 2.)