From America to Australia, everyone wants to get the New Year off to a good start. Here are 15 rituals from around the world that are said to ensure a happy, prosperous, love-filled, and adventurous new year.
1. SPAIN // EAT 12 GRAPES AT MIDNIGHT
Some people drink sparkling wine at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but in Spain (and some Latin American countries as well), grapes are consumed until the clock strikes the hour. They’ll eat 12 grapes—one for each stroke of midnight—to ensure that the next 12 months are filled with good fortune.
2. ARGENTINA // EAT BEANS
Beans are prized in Argentina not only for their fiber content, but also as a lucky New Year’s Eve dish. Eating them right before midnight is said to provide job security for the following year, making it the most responsible tradition on this list.
3. LATIN AMERICA // CARRY AROUND AN EMPTY SUITCASE
Many Latin American countries 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.
4. DENMARK // THROW BROKEN DISHES AT YOUR NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE
Most people throw broken dishes in the trash, but in Denmark, they do so in a much more creative way. They save them, and on New Year’s Eve, they toss the shards at the homes of their friends and family as a good luck gesture. (There’s no word on whether they’ll volunteer to clean up afterward.) Instead, Danes (and Germans) with less-aggressive personalities—or simply weaker throwing arms—can leave a heap of broken china on doorsteps.
5. BELARUS // HAVE A ROOSTER PREDICT YOUR LOVE LIFE
Single women seeking long-term love in Belarus sit in a circle, each with a pile of corn in front of her. A rooster is placed in the center of the circle, and the woman whose grain heap it pecks first is thought to be the first of the group to marry.
6. CHINA // CLEAN THE HOUSE (BUT WATCH WHICH WAY YOU SWEEP THE DIRT)
The Chinese New Year (also known as the “Spring Festival”) corresponds with the turn of the lunar-solar Chinese calendar and is not officially observed until late January to mid-February. However, as in many Western countries, the occasion is marked by a plethora of traditions and superstitions. One lucky custom is to clean your house from top to bottom to usher out the previous year. To prevent the good luck from being pushed out with the bad, people sweep the house inward, collect the dirt, and dispose of it out the back door rather than the front. And, to avoid sweeping away any lingering fortune, homemakers aren’t supposed to clean their homes at all during the first two days of the New Year.
7. THE AMERICAN SOUTH // EAT BLACK-EYED PEAS
Many Southern families celebrate New Year’s Day with a festive dinner of collard greens, pork, and black-eyed peas—a type of legume with a distinct black spot on its cream-colored shell. The latter dish is said to bring good luck (and whoever finds a coin hidden in the serving pot of beans will get the most of it). Nobody knows where this tradition began, but some say it started after the Civil War, when Union soldiers stole all Confederate food supplies except black-eyed peas (which made them “lucky”). Another theory is that Sephardic Jews, who settled in Georgia in the 18th century, ate black-eyed peas to celebrate the New Year and brought the tradition with them to America.
8. ROMANIA // PERFORM A CEREMONIAL BEAR DANCE
To ward off bad luck, villagers in Romania’s eastern Moldova region dress up in real bearskins and dance up and down the streets. The annual ritual, which takes place between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, is based on an ancient Roma tradition.
10. BRAZIL // TOSS WHITE FLOWERS AND GIFTS INTO THE OCEAN
On New Year’s Eve, many Brazilians believe that giving gifts to Yemanja, an Afro-Brazilian ocean spirit, will grant them newfound vitality and strength. They travel to Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach and throw white flowers and other offerings into the waves.
11. ESTONIA // EAT MULTIPLE MEALS
On New Year’s Day, Estonians eat seven to twelve meals in order to gain the strength of seven to twelve men. (They presumably then take seven to twelve food coma-induced naps.)
12. SOUTH AFRICA // TOSS FURNITURE OUT THE WINDOW
Residents of Johannesburg, South Africa’s Hillbrow neighborhood, throw old furniture out their windows or off their balconies. This act is presumably symbolic of shedding the old for the new and welcoming the promise of a new year. (Unfortunately, people have been injured as a result of this practice, and the police have been called in, so think twice before imitating it.)
13. THE PHILIPPINES // MAKE LOTS OF NOISE
In most cultures, New Year’s Eve is raucous, but people in the Philippines make a lot of noise. To frighten away evil spirits, they bang pots and pans together, set off fireworks, and even shoot guns into the air.
14. ECUADOR // BURN A SCARECROW
A scarecrow is a symbol of the previous year’s bad energy for New Year’s Eve revelers in Ecuador. They burn the straw effigy to symbolize a new, positive beginning to the year.
15. 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.