25 New Year’s Traditions From Around the World

Many of which are believed to bring you good luck

Friends celebrating with sparkers in the street at night
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New Year’s Eve is fast approaching and if you’re looking for a way to celebrate that doesn’t involve starting the new year with a brutal Champagne hangover, which may or may not fly in the face of one of your resolutions, we have some fresh ideas for you. Here, a list of fun and interesting New Year’s traditions from cultures around the world, many of which are believed to bring good luck. 

22 New Year’s Eve Outfits to Wear Even If You’re Just Home Alone Drinking Straight from a Bottle of Champagne

Watch the Ball Drop
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1. Watch the Ball Drop

Most Americans are familiar with this one, since the NYC ball drop in Times Square is a famous event of epic proportions. It’s also a tradition that has been enhancing the Big Apple’s New Year countdown since 1907 and has become more grandiose with every passing year. It’s worth noting, though, that other cities have followed suit, while adding their own flourish to the tradition—a fleur-de-lis in New Orleans and a giant wedge of cheese in Plymouth, Wisconsin, for example. And in our humble opinion, the Times Square ball drop is best enjoyed from the comfort of your couch, anyway. (Hint: it’s a lot more fun to watch the excited crowds on TV than actually join them.)

Close-up of a woman slicing oranges for cold refreshing drink
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2. Eat Something Round

Round food items are considered to be a symbol of prosperity and good luck in many cultures due to their likeness to coins, and are thus consumed around the world in various ways on New Year’s Eve. In the Philippines it’s typical for a fruit bowl stocked with exclusively round options to be the centerpiece of the party spread, and the custom is to eat one for every month of the year for good tidings in the year to come. Italians prefer legumes to fruit and eat as many lentils as they can before midnight on New Year’s Eve to secure a year of abundance; not unlike the Hoppin’ John tradition of the American South, where black-eyed peas are the legume of choice.

Break a Plate
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3. Break a Plate

Forget rage rooms—just head to Denmark to get your aggression out while simultaneously rejoicing in the promise of a new year by smashing dishware on the doorsteps of every friend and neighbor around. If you have a big mess of broken ceramic in front of your own house come New Year’s Day, it means you’re well-loved in the community and things might just go your way in 2024.

Feast on Fish
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4. Feast on Fish

According to the History Channel, fish is a popular New Year’s food in many places, including Germany, Poland and Scandinavia—namely because it’s seen as a symbol of “fertility, long life and bounty.” If you want to adopt this tradition, you can prepare a (secular) Feast of the Seven Fishes or opt for the surf-and-turf at the restaurant where you’re celebrating.  

Make Resolutions
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5. Make Resolutions 

This familiar Western tradition dates back a lot farther than you’d think; in fact, it is thought to have begun 4,000 years ago with the ancient Babylonians who conceived the notion of making promises to the gods in order to curry their favor for the coming year. (You can read more about the evolution of the tradition here.) Needless to say, New Year’s resolutions have stood the test of time…and the time to start drafting yours is fast approaching.

Beat the Walls with Bread
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6. Beat the Walls with Bread

Once you’ve feasted on fish, legumes and round fruits, do like the Irish and start giving the walls of your home a beat down with that loaf of bread you’re too full to even look at. Seriously—this is an odd but fun Irish New Year’s tradition that quite literally involves throwing, smashing or otherwise battering Christmas bread against the walls in order to rid the home of bad spirits before the New Year.

Blue, White and Red Plastic Buckets Filled with Rainwater on a Muddy Floor in the Bolivian Amazonia
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7. Throw a Bucket of Water

The Puerto Ricans have a different way of driving away evil spirits—namely by dumping a bucket of water out their window. Should you be visiting Puerto Rico over the New Year, we strongly suggest you stroll the streets in a bathing suit. (Don’t worry, it’s warm enough.)

Eat Long Food
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8. Eat Long Food

Back to food: the Japanese have a New Year tradition of dining on a dish called toshikoshi soba, which features long buckwheat noodles in a light, umami-forward dashi broth with a simple scallion garnish. This meal is as full of symbolism as it is flavor, being associated with breaking free from the past, gaining resilience and growing fortune in the future.

9. Buy (and Smash) a Peppermint Pig

Travel back stateside—to upstate New York, specifically—for another tradition that involves smashing something. There’s a little less destruction than you might find in, say, Denmark, because this custom from Saratoga Springs simply involves smashing a peppermint-spiked candy pig with a small hammer and eating a small piece for good luck in the New Year.

Wish Your Livestock a Good Year
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10. Wish Your Livestock a Good Year

When it comes to New Year celebrations, no creature is left behind by the Walloon and Flemish farmers of Belgium. To ensure a prosperous and bountiful year, the farmers wake up first thing on New Year’s Day to pass the well wishes on to all their livestock. 

Girl standing on the chair Photo template with copy space
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11. Jump Off a Chair 

Another New Year’s tradition courtesy of Denmark involves standing on the nearest chair and jumping off of it at the strike of midnight. The leap of faith is thought to do away with bad luck and bring the good kind—just make sure you proceed with caution so you can start the year off on the right foot (literally).

Italy: Onions Hang on Rustic Green Screen Door
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12. String Up Some Onions

In Greece, onions represent rebirth and growth—namely because they thrive without much maintenance or attention. As such, the Grecians have a New Years tradition of hanging bunches of the allium outside their front door to welcome prosperity and fertility into their own homes during the coming year.

Multigeneration family singing christmas song at house party
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13. Sing Auld Lang Syne

Scotland’s New Year’s tradition of singing Auld Lang Syne has traveled far and wide. This beautiful piece of music originated in Scottish folklore and was turned into a song about reflecting on the past and looking to the future by poet Robert Burns. It’s commonly sung while holding hands with friends and loved ones as a way to “bring in the bells” and ring in the New Year.

Young family celebrating Christmas
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14.  Kiss Someone You Love

Mistletoe isn’t just for Christmas, friends—and it’s not even necessary for a fortuitous New Year’s kiss. The tradition actually dates back to Old English and German folklore as a way of securing love for the New Year. If you’re looking for an intimate relationship to come your way, take note and give a smooch to the nearest suitor when the clock strikes midnight.

Young couple jumping against waves
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15. Jump Over Seven Ocean Waves

Seven waves, seven wishes…or so goes the tradition in Brazil, where it’s customary to celebrate the New Year and score yourself some good luck by heading to the ocean to jump over breaking waves. You’ll find the biggest celebration in Rio, where the New Year's tradition of jumping over incoming waves and making wishes is common practice—just remember you have to narrow down your wishlist to seven if you want to hit the water prepared.

Wear White
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16. Wear White

When you hear ‘white party’ you might think of celebrities in the Hamptons, but it’s actually a New Year’s tradition in Brazil, where white is thought to be a symbol of peace and good luck for the New Year. Don your freshest whites and be careful not to party too hard, lest you stain them.

…Or Opt for Polkadots
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17. …Or Opt for Polkadots

Remember how we mentioned the Philippines as a place where the symbolism of round objects has particular significance? Well, you can find evidence of that beyond the fruit bowl—namely in the polka dot printed attire that’s favored for the occasion.

Young woman with a unique style, using her smartphone and eating grapes
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18.  Eat 12 Grapes

The number requires little explanation—one for each month of the year—but the Spanish and Latin American tradition plays out on a very specific timeline. Eat one grape at every stroke of midnight for good fortune, and if you fail (or god forbid, choke) you might be out of luck.

Homemade Hoppin john Southern style New year good luck food is a black-eyed peas and rice with vegetables dish closeup on the plate. Horizontal top view
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19.  Cook Up Some Hoppin’ John

Often enjoyed with collard greens and cornbread, this traditional New Year’s dish of black-eyed peas, pork and rice hails from the American South, where it’s considered to be a harbinger of peace and luck for the coming year. (Bonus points if you place a penny under the finished dish, but we promise it’s delicious either way.) 

Gift Someone a Lucky Charm
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20. Gift Someone a Lucky Charm

This New Year’s tradition of gifting good luck charms is particularly prominent in Austria and Germany. The tchotchkes can be found at any Christmas market and typically come in the form of mushroom, pig or chimney sweep—each with their own significance that you can read more about here.

Bake a Cake with a Hidden Surprise
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21. Bake a Cake with a Hidden Surprise

You might have heard of a Three King’s Cake, and the idea behind this Greek tradition is somewhat similar, in that it’s a gamble that involves baking a coin into a special New Year cake called vasilopita. The guest who’s served the lucky slice can supposedly look forward to a good year ahead. (Everyone else just gets a yummy dessert and a different kind of gamble called life.)

Go for a Run with an Empty Suitcase
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22.  Go for a Run with an Empty Suitcase

Make sure to pack a pair of running shoes and nothing else if you’re celebrating the New Year in Colombia. And don’t be surprised if when you arrive you see folks sprinting around the block with a suitcase in hand—just join them in a unique and particularly energetic New Year’s tradition that makes an impactful statement about leaving behind the past year’s baggage.

Make a Wish on the River
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23. Make a Wish on the River

In Singapore, New Year’s celebrations are a feast for the eyes, and one tradition in particular stands out. Every year, the city decorates its river with thousands of glowing, colorful spheres representing the wishes (and perhaps resolutions) of all the revelers. If you ever have a chance to see the breathtaking spectacle firsthand, don’t miss your chance to make a wish and watch it float away.

Child holding and peeling a juicy cut pomegranate
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24. Break Fruit, Not Bread

As previously mentioned, round fruits play a significant part in New Year’s traditions around the world, but in some cultures they aren't just for eating. In Turkey, it’s customary to smash a pomegranate—a highly prized symbol of prosperity and abundance—on your doorstep to celebrate the New Year.

Female tourist relaxing in hotel room
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25. Open Your Doors and Windows

Out with the old and in with the new—that’s the idea behind the New Year’s tradition of opening all the doors and windows when the time comes to bid adieu to the present year. This custom is practiced all over the world, but in places with cold winters, we’re guessing the ceremonial farewell is fairly brief.

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