New Year’s Traditions From Around The World

For many families and individuals alike, New Year’s traditions are just as special as the traditions honoured throughout Christmas and Hanukkah.

· 8 min read
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For many families and individuals alike, New Year’s traditions are just as special as the traditions honoured throughout Christmas and Hanukkah.

The arrival of a New Year is a monumental and meaningful time. It’s a time for reflection, goal-setting, and celebration. Around this time of year, we tend to look back on what we achieved, or challenges we overcame over the previous 12 months. We set goals that we hope to achieve in the year ahead. For some, the New Year is also an opportunity to officially let go of past trauma which may have taken place in the year prior.

Across the globe, people have found their own unique ways to ring in the new year, with resolution setting, festivities, kissing at midnight, and meaningful events such as the New Year’s Eve party. Whether they involve food, games, or outdoor adventures, New Year’s traditions around the world help us to start the next chapter of our lives in the right mindset.

New Year’s Traditions in the United Kingdom

New Year’s traditions in the United Kingdom involve many of the common practices you may be familiar with, such as kissing at midnight, or setting resolutions. However, people in the UK also have some of their own unique ways to celebrate.

On the 31st of December, many families host New Year’s eve parties, complete with music, games, watching the countdown, and sometimes even fireworks. The UK also has its own televised countdown for the New Year. The program often includes references to major news events from throughout the year.

In the UK and Scotland, many families also take part in the act of ‘first footing’ on New Year’s day. People believe the first person to cross through the threshold of your home after midnight on New Year’s Eve should immediately wish the family a Happy New Year, and be welcomed with food and drink.

Traditionally, many believe a dark-haired person brings the best good luck, particularly if they come bearing gifts. Some say this is because the Vikings who invaded the UK and Scotland were fair-haired. As such, dark hair represents success and vitality.

New Year’s in the United States

New Year’s traditions in the United States are well-known among many. The people of the United States take part in the midnight kiss. However, this tradition actually comes from ancient Europe, and was considered to help with warding off evil spirits and creating luck for the new year.

Many people in the US also set resolutions for the year ahead. Similar to many other individuals worldwide, the Americans believe setting resolutions or goals for the New Year will help them to eliminate their bad habits and achieve their targets. Resolutions often revolve around living a happier, healthier, or more affluent life.

Perhaps the biggest tradition in the US involves gathering around the television set, or visiting the streets of Times Square to watch the ball drop. The ball drop was first introduced by the New York Times owner, Adolph Ochs in 1907, to help draw attention to the Time’s new headquarters, and it has been a major annual event ever since.

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New Year’s in Japan

Many Asian countries have interesting New Year’s traditions. In Japanese culture, many families welcome the arrival of the new year by eating a meal of soba noodles. Toshikoshi Soba, as it’s called by the locals, has unknown origins. However, many believe the thin shape and long length of the noodles is meant to symbolize a long and healthy life.

Some folks also think the buckwheat plant used to make the noodles is symbolic. Buckwheat is a resilient plant, which the Japanese associate with strength.

Another common tradition in Japan is to ring a bell. Buddhist temples in Japan ring their bells 107 times on New Year’s Eve, and once more when the clock sounds at midnight. This tradition is intended to dispel some of the evil spirits and desires surrounding every person, and cleanse them for the new year.

New Year’s in Australia

Similar to many citizens of countries worldwide, Australians celebrate the start of the New Year with midnight firework displays. These displays are often launched in major locations, such as the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and are typically located around water. Many people pack picnic baskets and arrive in the early hours of the evening to celebrate and view the spectacle.

New Year’s traditions in Australia also include parties on New Year’s Eve, with parades, music, and live entertainment. Celebrities are sometimes invited as guests of honor for major events, and New Year’s balls are popular, with many having their own theme, such as black-tie or formal wear.

Numerous Australians also celebrate New Year’s Eve on beaches, in urban parks, or on boat cruises, and some host special barbecues at their own homes. When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, many toast with glasses of champagne, as well as hugging, and kissing each other.

New Year’s in Canada

Being America’s neighbour, many of Canada’s New Year’s Traditions are similar to the US, such as setting New Year’s resolutions, kissing at midnight, yelling out the countdown, drinking champagne and wearing New Year’s hats or tiaras.


The temperature in most parts of Canada during the New Year can be quite cold, but this doesn’t stop the locals in smaller Canadian towns from enjoying their New Year’s traditions. Families even rent heated cabins and pack camping and cooking equipment to bring to ice fishing lakes, so they can try and catch the first big fish of the new year together.

Similar to many western countries, Canada hosts a number of amazing parties across New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day. There’s a massive parade in Halifax, as well as live bands and music around St John’s George’s Street, Montreal’s Old Port, and the Vancouver Harbor Event Center.

One particularly interesting New Year’s tradition in Canada is the “Polar Bear Swim”, which involves people jumping into freezing waters on New Year’s day to raise money for charity, or to just cleanse themselves of the previous year. The event first began in Vancouver in the early 1900s, and now takes place across the nation. Brave people dress up in unique outfits, and even plunge into the water with their entire family.

Keep in mind, this tradition proves Canadians are brave. Their beaches and their oceans are extremely cold in January.

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New Year’s in Iran

In Iran, and many other parts of the Middle East, New Year’s doesn’t take place on the 1st of January. Instead, these cultures celebrate with New Year’s traditions in the middle of the spring, around the vernal equinox. The day is associated heavily with rebirth and growth.

Known as Nowruz, Iranian New Year’s involves creating small fires and jumping over them, to symbolize overcoming obstacles. There’s also a feast which involves seven symbolic dishes, with ingredients that have their own unique meaning. Vinegar represents patience and love, while apples stand for health and beauty.

Pomegranates are particularly popular on Iranian tables, as they evoke ideas of fertility and abundance. Fresh herbs are used for new beginnings, and dried berries suggest the year ahead will be sweet and full of wonder.

New Year’s in Spain

Spanish people also have some fantastic New Year’s traditions. During New Year’s Eve, and the official day, streets are illuminated with special lights. However, people typically stay home until midnight on New Year’s Eve (Noche Vieja) to spend time with loved ones.

At the stroke of midnight, families eat twelve grapes, symbolizing each stroke of the clock. This is believed to bring good luck, happiness, and prosperity in the year ahead. In big cities, people congregate around the main square to dance until the early hours of the morning.

There’s also a tradition in Spain to host a parade made up mostly of children on the fifth of January. On this day, children come to see the parade and ask for gifts from people dressed up as three kings. Before going to bed, children also leave their shoes or a dinner plate out hoping to wake up to a special treat.

New Year’s in Denmark

Denmark comes alive with a number of amazing New Years traditions around the beginning of January. For many Danes, it’s believed to be good luck to jump into the New Year from the top of a chair or another surface. As the clock strikes midnight, people jump to the floor, then kiss their friends and family members, and share toasts for the new year.

In Denmark, and many other Scandinavian countries, locals also enjoy a traditional kransekage dessert, which includes layers of dense cake in the shape of a cone tower. The cake is often topped with stripes of white frosting, and sometimes small Danish flags.

On New Year’s Eve, people in Denmark also take pride in the number of broken dishes outside of their door by the end of the evening. It’s a tradition to throw old plates at the front doors of friends and neighbors. Some believe this is a way of leaving any ill will or aggression behind before the new year begins. The bigger the pile of plates in front of your door, the more luck you’re said to have.

New Year’s in Brazil

New Years traditions in Brazil are brimming with energy. Many people often go to the beach to celebrate, and immediately after midnight, they jump over seven waves while making wishes. The tradition is supposed to pay homage to the goddess of water, Yemanja.

Before jumping in the water, locals are supposed to wear white, as this color symbolizes purity. Many people also give white gifts to their loved ones, such as combs, necklaces, white flowers, and soaps. Some even throw white flowers into the sea.

Brazilians also eat pomegranates for good luck on New Year’s day. Legend has it that keeping pomegranate seeds in your wallet will also attract abundance and prosperity. Lentils are also believed to bring a lot of positive energy to families on New Year’s.

Celebrating Global New Year’s Traditions

Wherever you are in the world, special New Year’s traditions represent an incredible opportunity to leave the old year behind, and look forward to a brighter future. Almost every culture has its own way of welcoming the year ahead, often with hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow.

If you want to start your new year on the right foot, learning a little more about yourself could be an excellent way to do it. Start your new year with an insightful at-home DNA test, and use what you learn to plan a healthier, happier new year, based on your unique DNA. Read your DNA insights to find out how to improve your health and well-being in the new year.

References:

  1. Good Housekeeping: 35 Best New Year Traditions to Bring You All the Luck
    https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g25360543/new-year-traditions/
  2. His-USA: Traditions for New Years
    https://top.his-usa.com/destination-japan/blog/japanese_new_years_traditions.html#:~:text=One of the more traditional,tend to all go together.
  3. Time and Date: New Year's Day in Canada
    https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/canada/new-year-day#:~:text=Many people start January 1,fishing with groups of friends.