From Denmark to Japan: How Locals Celebrate New Year’s Across the Globe

From Denmark to Japan: How Locals Celebrate New Year’s Across the Globe

Whether you’re watching the ball drop or toasting to the end of 2016, here’s some cool ways how New Year’s is celebrated around the world.



Danes tend to celebrate New Year’s with quite a raucous! It’s traditional to jump off a chair at midnight – representing “leaping” into the new year – to bring good luck and chase away any negativity. It’s also perfectly acceptable to smash plates and glasses against the homes of your friends and family.


South America 

Countries like Venezuela, Brazil, and Bolivia ring in the New Year by wearing brightly colored underwear. In cities like La Paz and São Paulo, you can buy these flashy underpants at market vendors. Be careful what color you wear though! Red is said to bring love, and yellow is said to bring you a lot of money.



Similar to how some people take Christmas very seriously, New Year’s Day is a special time for gathering and feasting in Japan. Throughout the night on New Year’s Eve (called Omisoka), a bell is rung over a hundred times to ward off earthly temptations that may make the new year challenging. Some Japanese use New Year’s as a time for ‘spring cleaning’ to start their year on a fresh, tidy note.



The festival of St. Basil is celebrated on New Year’s Day for people who are Greek Orthodox. It’s traditional to enjoy a rich almond cake (vasilopitathat’s baked with a coin inside. Just like a king cake for Mardi Gras, whoever finds the coin in his or her slice is said to have a lucky new year. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, families etch the sign of the cross on top of the cake to bless their homes, and slices are served in order of oldest to youngest.


Great Britain

In English-speaking countries, “Auld Lang Syne” is a popular song that is sung on New Year’s Eve. The lyrics are from an old Scottish song that was published by the poet Robert Burns in 1796. Translating to “old long since,” the song is about the special times that have gone by and calls for a reunion with friends. In one very Scottish-sounding line, the song laments about how old friends used to “run about the braes / and pou’d the gowans fine” (run about the hills and pull up the daisies). But it’s actually because of a Canadian singer (Guy Lombardo) that “Auld Lang Syne” became a New Year’s tradition, after he sang the song in 1929 at New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel.



Koreans celebrate Solar New Year as a national holiday on January 1 (in addition to the very popular Lunar New Year celebration). On this day in Korea, it’s traditional to visit the graves of your ancestors and prepare foods for their spirits. Children give respect to their elders by bowing down in front of them, and in some families, children are given money as a gift.

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