From America to Australia, everyone wants to start the New Year off on the right foot. Here are 15 rituals from around the world that are said to ensure a forthcoming year filled with happiness, prosperity, love, and adventure.
1. LATIN AMERICA // CARRY AROUND AN EMPTY SUITCASE.
In many Latin American countries, New Year’s revelers with a case of wanderlust will set an empty suitcase by their front door (or even drag it around a room in circles, or around the block) to conjure an upcoming year filled with adventure and travel.
2. SPAIN // EAT 12 GRAPES AT MIDNIGHT.
Some people guzzle sparkling wine at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but in Spain (and in some Latin American countries, too), they stick with grapes until the clock is done striking the hour. They’ll gobble 12 bits of fruit—one grape for each stroke of midnight—to ensure the next 12 months will be filled with luck.
3. ARGENTINA // EAT BEANS.
In Argentina, beans aren’t just prized for their fiber content—they’re also considered to be a lucky New Year’s Eve dish. Eating them right before midnight is said to provide job security for the coming year—perhaps the most responsible tradition on this list.
4. BELARUS // HAVE A ROOSTER PREDICT YOUR LOVE LIFE.
In Belarus, single women looking for lasting love sit in a circle, each with a pile of corn in front of her. A rooster is placed in the circle’s center, and the woman whose grain heap it pecks at first is believed to be the first of the bunch to get married.
5. CHINA // CLEAN THE HOUSE (BUT WATCH WHICH WAY YOU SWEEP THE DIRT).
The Chinese New Year (known as the "Spring Festival") corresponds with the turn of the lunar-solar Chinese calendar, and technically isn’t celebrated until late January to mid- February. But just like in many Western countries, the occasion is marked with numerous traditions and superstitions. One good-luck custom is to clean your home from top to bottom as a way to usher out the prior year. But to ensure the good luck doesn’t accidentally get pushed out along with the bad, people sweep the home inward, collect the dirt, and dispose of it out the back door instead of the front one. And during the first two days of the New Year, homemakers aren’t supposed to clean their dwellings at all, to avoid sweeping away any lingering fortune.
6. DENMARK // THROW BROKEN DISHES AT YOUR NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE.
Most people toss broken dishes into the trash, but in Denmark, they dispose of them in a much more creative fashion. They save them, and on New Year’s Eve, they toss the shards at their friends’ and family’s homes as a gesture of good luck. (No word on whether they volunteer to clean up the mess after.) Danes (and Germans) with less-pugnacious personalities—or simply weaker throwing arms—can opt to leave a heap of broken china on doorsteps, instead.
7. ROMANIA // PERFORM A CEREMONIAL BEAR DANCE.
In Romania's eastern Moldova region, villagers dress in real bearskins and dance up and down the streets to ward off bad luck. The ritual takes place each year, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and stems from an ancient Roma tradition.
8. THE AMERICAN SOUTH // EAT BLACK-EYED PEAS.
In America, many Southern families eat a festive New Year’s Day dinner of collard greens, pork, and black-eyed peas—a type of legume with a distinctive black spot on its cream-colored shell. The latter dish is said to bring good luck (and whoever finds a coin hidden in the beans’ serving pot will have the most of it). Nobody quite knows where this tradition originated, but some people say it began after the Civil War, when Union soldiers stole all Confederate food supplies aside from black-eyed peas (thus making them “lucky”). Another theory is that Sephardic Jews—who settled Georgia during the 18th century—ate black-eyed peas to ring in the New Year, and brought the tradition with them to America.
9. SOUTH AFRICA // TOSS FURNITURE OUT THE WINDOW.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, locals who live in the city’s Hillbrow neighborhood toss old furniture out the windows, or off their balconies. Presumably, this act symbolizes shedding the old for the new, and embracing the promise of a new year. (Sadly, people have been injured from this practice, and the police have gotten involved, so think twice before emulating this one.)
10. ESTONIA // EAT MULTIPLE MEALS.
In Estonia, people eat seven to 12 meals on New Year’s Day to provide them with the strength of seven to 12 men. (They then, presumably, take seven to 12 food coma-induced naps.)
11. FINLAND/SCANDINAVIA // POUR MELTED TIN INTO WATER.
In some Nordic countries, like Finland, people melt tin horseshoes, then pour the resulting liquid into cold water and watch it swirl into a new, solid form. The shape it makes is said to predict what kind of year you’ll have.
12. BRAZIL // TOSS WHITE FLOWERS AND GIFTS INTO THE OCEAN.
Many Brazilians believe that giving gifts to Yemanja, an Afro-Brazilian ocean spirit, on New Year’s Eve will give them newfound vitality and strength. They travel to Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, and toss white flowers and other offerings into the waves.
13. ECUADOR // BURN A SCARECROW.
To New Year’s Eve revelers in Ecuador, a scarecrow serves as a symbol for the previous year’s bad energy. They burn the straw effigy to promote a fresh, positive start to the year.
14. SCOTLAND // THE YEAR’S FIRST GUEST BRINGS YOU GIFTS.
In Scotland, the first person to cross your home’s threshold in the New Year is required to bring you an assortment of symbolic gifts: a coin, salt, bread, coal, and whiskey.
15. THE PHILIPPINES // MAKE LOTS OF NOISE
New Year’s Eve is typically rowdy in most cultures, but people in the Philippines make lots of noise. To scare off evil spirits, they bang together pots and pans, set off fireworks, and even shoot guns into the air.