8 Ways the World Rings in the New Year

Category: Culture

Each New Year brings a fresh start, and many cultures have their own customs said to bring luck, fortune or prosperity for the year ahead. Here are some New Year’s traditions from different countries around the world:


Since 1576 the Dutch celebrate New Year’s on January 1st, locally referred to as “oud en nieuw” – old and new. The last hours of the year are typically enjoyed at home with friends and  family eating oliebollen, deep-fried dough, and appelflappen, apple beignets, topped with poedersuiker – confectioner’s sugar. However, once the clock strikes midnight, that is when the party begins. With a toast of champagne, the Dutch take to the streets to set off or admire fireworks – traditionally started to chase away any bad spirits – and to greet their neighbors with New Year’s wishes. Some brave people head into the freezing waters of the North Sea to commence the New Year (Nieuwjaarsduik) while others gather for a New Year’s meal in warmer surroundings.


The Spanish rely on fruit, specifically grapes, to bring good luck in the New Year. In Spain, eating twelve grapes at Midnight on December 31st is said to bring luck for the next year. There is a catch; the grapes have to be eaten one by one with each strike of the clock. While not eating the twelve grapes is seen as a superstition for an unlucky year, this tradition is a fun way to bring in the New Year with friends and family. Check out the different methods to eating twelve grapes in just twelve seconds here.


In Japan, celebrating the New Year is a quiet, family affair. Although the New Year is one of Japan’s largest holidays, it is not celebrated with fireworks or noisy parties. Instead, the Japanese spend December 31st with family in their homes to end the year. Like most other cultures, the Japanese have their own way of bringing luck and fortune for the New Year. Many Japanese will place ornaments known as Kadomatsu on their front doors and will leave offerings to the gods made of mochi, a rice based dumpling. The Japanese also kick off the New Year by wishing for prosperity, safety and good health at a shrine or temple between January 1st and 3rd, days in which most people will have off from work in order to honor this holiday.


Bleigiessen an Silvester

In Germany the fate of the New Year is seen in molten lead. Bleigiessen is the German New Year’s Eve tradition of melting lead over a candle and pouring the hot metal into cold water. The result? A unique shape of hardened lead that is said to show a glimpse of the year ahead. After deciding what each shape looks like, it is time to realize your fate for the next 12 months.

A heart shape means luck and health, a fish means it’s time to take a vacation, and an owl could mean it’s time to get glasses.


In Russia, you’ll have two opportunities to celebrate the New Year. Once from December 31st in to January 1st, and again two weeks later.The first New Year is usually the larger celebration of the two. During the Soviet period, this holiday was celebrated in place of Christmas and Ded Moroz, the Russian “Santa,” would pay a visit to children during the evening to leave gifts under the tree. Now, even though Christmas is more widely celebrated in Russia on January 7th, the New Year still remains a major holiday for the country. The “Old” New Year is celebrated on  January 14th according to the Orthodox Calendar. This celebration is much quieter than the first New Year and is often observed with a large meal amongst family and singing of carols. As for the two weeks between the New and the Old New Year, it is best to assume Russian’s are making the most of this holiday.


New Year’s celebrations in Argentina typically start with a late dinner with family and friends on December 31st. Once the clock strikes twelve, it is a common tradition to eat twelve grapes while standing on a chair for good luck. In Argentina they don’t just simply toast to the New Year with a glass of champagne, each person goes around the whole table wishing everyone a happy New year with a kiss on the right cheek. After which, it is common for the entire family to go out to the streets to take part in a large celebration with fireworks well into the late hours of January 1st. The first meal of the next day must be rice, even before a sip of coffee, to bring good luck in the New Year.

ChinaAsian mother give a red envelope or Ang-pow to son

Unlike most other cultures, the Chinese celebrate the New Year for fifteen days. This celebration is deeply rooted with traditions dating back centuries including the launching of fireworks, giving of red envelopes filled with money to children, dinner with relatives and more over the course of the fifteen days. Most of these traditions are meant to ward away the evil and bring good fortune and prosperity for the coming year. The Chinese New Year is uniquely celebrated around the globe from China to California as one of the biggest celebrations in Chinese culture. Remember in 2017, wait until January 21st through February 20th if you are going to wish a Chinese friend or colleague a happy New Year!


Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year celebration that comes from the Vikings and until 1958 was the Scots way of having a winter celebration in lieu of Christmas. Unlike most New Year’s festivities, this celebration extends until January 2nd to bring in the New Year. One popular Hogmanay tradition is first-footing. The tradition says the first person to cross the threshold affects the household’s fortunes for the year. Most Scots believe a tall dark male should be the first to enter the household to ensure good luck.

Just like the Hogmanay tradition for “first-footing”, start the New Year off right by partnering with a translation agency like Acclaro that can help you achieve brand success across cultures.