New Year’s Traditions from Around the World

A landscape of Lake Biakal with a blue sky, frozen dark blue ice and a large rock jetting out of the frozen lake


If you plan to visit Brazil on December 31, make sure to pack a white outfit! Wearing white on New Year’s Eve symbolizes good luck and peace, and although this tradition has roots in Afro-Brazilian religions, the Catholic Church has also adopted it.

Brazilians consider seven to be a lucky number on New Year’s Eve. So, they eat seven pomegranate seeds to attract wealth and seven grapes to ensure abundance in other areas of life.

Another tradition stemming from the Afro-Brazilian religion Umbanda is jumping into seven waves at midnight for good luck. Those who practice Umbanda link the number seven to the sacred water goddess Lemanjá who gives followers strength in the coming year. Make a wish for each wave you jump over to bring more good omens into the year ahead.


In the Philippines, New Year’s traditions revolve around circles. The shape symbolizes luck and coins or affluence. Partygoers wear polka dots on New Year’s Eve to increase their chances of wealth in the New Year. 

It’s customary to eat twelve round fruits to ring in the New Year and ensure a year of prosperity and abundance. Families display these fruits on the table during Media Noche, a traditional meal eaten at midnight. 


In Denmark, the holiday begins with the Queen’s New Year’s Eve speech followed by watching the black and white movie “Dinner for One” just before midnight.

As the countdown to midnight begins, Danes stand on chairs and couches to symbolically leap into the New Year. This superstition is said to bring hope and help ease the transition into the coming year. After the countdown, people enjoy firework displays, which are based on a centuries-old belief that loud noises keep negative energies and spirits away.

Danish locals also smash plates against their loved one’s doors on New Year’s Eve. This unique practice is a sign of affection, and it’s considered good luck if you have a large pile of broken items to clean off your doorstep in the morning. 


Instead of the familiar firework displays, people in Ecuador opt for a different kind of light show on New Year’s Eve--burning effigies. Locals see the practice as a way to cleanse away the negative parts of the old year, “Año Viejo,” in Spanish. The tradition stems from a tragic yellow fever pandemic in 1895 but has become a celebratory event over time. 

People make effigies of television characters, celebrities, and politicians and parade them through their town or city. Those who feel extra daring will jump over a burning effigy 12 times (one jump for each month) for good luck.


Midnight champagne toasts in Russia have a twist on New Year’s Eve. People write down a wish for the new year on paper, burn it, and then add it to their champagne glass to drink for good luck.

Another Russian New Year’s tradition takes place at Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. Two divers take a decorated tree 100 feet below the lake’s frozen surface. Meanwhile, other swimmers take a dip into the lake’s below-freezing temperature wearing festive outfits to celebrate the coming year.


In Greece, onions symbolize fertility and rebirth due to their ability to grow in all conditions. On New Year’s Eve, Greek families hang a bundle of onions near their front door to invite growth and prosperity throughout the year. Another tradition involves parents waking their children up on New Year’s Day by gently tapping them on the head with onions.

Greeks celebrate New Year’s with a special dessert, an orange-flavored cake called vasilopita. The host bakes a coin into the cake, and whoever receives the trinket in their slice will have extra luck in the coming year.

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