Smashing Pomegranates And 11 More New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World

December 28, 2021
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Fireworks show

In 3, 2, 1… Happy New Year!

‘Tis a new year. ‘Tis a new season. ‘Tis a new beginning. The New Year is a big holiday celebrated all over the planet. It is welcomed with parties, fireworks, and various traditions

Countries all across the world celebrate the New Year in a variety of ways, from eating grapes to tossing out furniture, all in the hopes of bringing in good fortune and prosperity.

But have you ever wondered how the rest of the world rings in the New Year? Check out our collection of 12 international traditions to learn more!

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

1. Spain: Eating 12 grapes at midnight

After the twelve bell chimes at midnight in Spain, Spaniards will eat exactly 12 grapes. This custom is known to bring in luck and prosperity for the year. The old Spanish tradition has been around since the 20th century and it was popularized by the grape growers of Alicante, Spain. The grape growers started this custom to symbolize good fortune for the coming year. Later on, the tradition was embraced all over Spain and it spread throughout Europe and across the world.

2. Greece: Hanging onions

Onions are regarded as the ultimate sign of fertility in Greek culture. So on New Year’s Eve, families will hang an onion by the door symbolizing growth and rebirth. One caveat is that this tradition must be done after the family attends the New Year’s Eve church service. On New Year’s Day, parents wake up the children by tapping them on the head with an onion or by putting an onion on their head.

3. Japan: Slurping soba noodles

Slurping a bowl of soba noodles is an important part of the New Year’s tradition in Japan also known as toshikoshi soba. The delicious tradition goes back around 800 years ago to the Kamakura period, when a Buddhist temple gave soba to the poor people during New Year’s. During the Edo period, the noodles became an important component of the New Year and the savory custom is now enjoyed all over Japan. Many people also believe that the thin shape of the soba noodles symbolizes long and healthy life.

4. Ireland: Sleeping on mistletoe or ivy or holly

In Ireland, one of the traditions for most singletons is to sleep with sprigs of mistletoe or ivy or holly under the pillow on New Year’s Eve. The New Year tradition is believed to help the person dream of a future partner. Another variation of this custom is to hang a mistletoe outside the front door to bring in luck in finding the right partner in the coming months.

5. Italy: Wearing red underwear

In Italy, a way to ring in the new year is to wear red underwear. In Italian culture, red is the color of fertility and it is recommended that those trying to conceive in the coming year must wear red underwear. So after Christmas, many stores throughout the country will have a large selection of red underwear for people to choose from.

6. Denmark: Smashing plates

A mountain of smashed plates can be found outside people's doors in Denmark on ​ New Year's Eve. Throwing china is a Danish ritual that expresses love, affection, and friendship. The more broken dishes you find outside your door, the luckier you will be in the coming year. And the smashing of plates also represents the idea of letting go of any negativity before the new year begins.

7. South Africa: Throwing furniture out the window

On New Year's Eve, residents in Johannesburg, South Africa, toss their furniture out of their windows. This custom is a way to get rid of unnecessary things and to start fresh for the new year. Although the tradition is not widely practiced across the country, some people believe that ritual sends a message to the universe that you are letting go of the negative past and looking forward to a brighter future

8. Philippines: Displaying 12 round fruits

Local markets and grocery stores in the Philippines are full of round fruits by New Year’s Eve. Filipinos believe that the round shape of the fruits represents the shape of money, which is associated with wealth. As a result, round fruits such as apples, melons, grapes, oranges, and other varieties, are commonly displayed in many Filipino homes. At midnight, some Filipinos eat 12 grapes, similar to the Spanish tradition.

9. Brazil: Wearing a white outfit

A way to ring in the new year in Brazil is to wear a white outfit. In Brazilian culture, wearing white clothing when celebrating the new year is said to bring in a year of peace and good fortune. Furthermore, the ocean in Brazil is littered with white flowers and candles as offerings to the goddess Yemoja, a way to invite and welcome her good graces for the next year.

10. Colombia: Running with an empty suitcase

In Colombia, people take a suitcase packed with some stuff or with nothing at all, and run around the street as fast as they can. The tradition is intended to guarantee a year of memorable travels and fun adventures.

11. Turkey: Smashing of pomegranates

The pomegranate is considered an important fruit in Turkey, and is seen as a symbol of fertility, prosperity, and abundance. As a result, pomegranates play a significant role in ringing in the new year. One Turkish tradition is to smash pomegranates in front of the house on New Year’s Eve, a way to welcome good fortune for the coming year. If you don’t have a pomegranate, you can sprinkle salt on the doorstep for luck.

12. South Korea: Sipping soup for the soul

Apart from Chuseok, New Year's Day is one of the most important holidays in Korean culture. In South Korea, it is customary to have a bowl of tteokguk soup or a rice cake soup on the morning of the new year to welcome good fortune, good health, and long life.

Although the origins of this ritual are unknown, the soup was mentioned in a 19th century book of customs. In his 1946 book "The Customs of Joseon," Korean historian Choe Nam-seon discussed how the practice must have started in ancient times. However, it is thought that on this specific day, the white tteok, which symbolizes purity and cleanliness, was eaten, and that this has since been a New Year's practice for good luck.

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