New Year’s Traditions 10 Day Countdown of the Weird & Wonderful

What’s your favorite way to celebrate the New Year?   

Weird New Year's Traditions 2014 Photo of Fire balls in Scotland photo

Are you a party-er? Or, more apt to quietly say a few words over a glass of whiskey, wine, or champagne, happy to put the old year out of its misery?

Whatever your pleasure, we have a full 10 Day Countdown to keep you company and lend some inspiration! (And, hopefully, even a smile or two!)

[This is a long post, so read 1 day’s Tradition at a time, or sit back and enjoy the world all at once with your favorite holiday spirit.]

They say the origin of New Year’s celebrations date back to roughly 2000 B.C. in mid-March. Ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians and Phoenicians, celebrated the New Year with the fall equinox. The Romans were the first recorded population to celebrate the New Year on Jan. 1, in 153 B.C.

Ex-Pat Living: Supporting Charities Through Holiday GivingWell, that certainly explains a lot about our tendency toward revelry on New Year’s! Those Romans knew how to party hardy.

Keep Calm & Carry On?  Who Are We Kidding!

Now, you’d think in all this time, mankind would have exhausted all the weird and wacky ways to celebrate the end of one year and the birth of a new one.

Uh, then again, if these stories are any indication, we’re still hard at work trying to out do last year’s craziness. Here’s the post I shared last New Year’s Get Lucky in Denmark. We uncovered some pretty interesting traditions in that post and it turned out to be one of the most popular searches all year.

It seems only fitting to add to our list, to bring you the Weird & Wonderful Top 10 Global New Year’s Traditions, 2015 edition.

So without further ado, counting down, as we do, let’s start with #10:

# 10   The Philippines

New Year's traditions - Philippines

Philippine children jump at midnight to grow taller in the New Year!

In many countries, there’s a shared belief that specific actions taken on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day—or at the stroke of midnight when one becomes the other—can influence the fate of the months ahead.

In the Philippines, for example, wearing polka dots and eating round fruits is supposed to ensure a prosperous new year.

Filipino children also get in on the act by jumping at the stroke of midnight to grow taller in the coming year!

So when you see normally well-behaved children suddenly jumping up and down, while wearing polka dot pajamas, clamoring to eat round fruit- you’ll know what it’s all about! The kiddos are just looking to have good luck in the new year while being a little taller to boot! Try it… you never know!

#9   Brasil

This photo is from the Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, as seen from the top of the Reveillon at Hotel Porto Bay Rio Internacional.

PortoBay Rio de Janeiro | Réveillon 2013

Not that Rio needs a reason to party, but this is a special one for Yemanja, the goddess of the seas.

“Champagne douses the crowds as blaring Samba music drives the excitement at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. This Brazilian shoreline is the dance-’til-dawn kind of party, where celebrators dress in white for good luck, and throw flowers and gifts into the ocean for Yemanja, the goddess of the seas. Legend has it that if the offerings don’t float back to shore, the visitors’ wishes will come true.

During this massive late-night celebration, musicians and dancers perform on stages set up along the sandy strip. Once midnight rolls around, spectacular fireworks shoot into the sky from barges off-shore, while beachgoers spray champagne into the masses. The packed outdoor party rages on well into the early hours of the morning, but nearby nightclubs and bars also bring the festivities indoors.”  [via]

And yes, down below, on the beach, those little specks are all people… wall to wall people!

#8   Colombia

Are you noticing a trend here?

We seem to gravitate either to water or fire at this time of year.

In Medellin, Colombia revelers buy straw dolls to be burned during the end of the year celebrations. It’s a Colombian tradition to burn so-called ‘old year dolls‘ on New Year’s eve as a way to leave behind all the bad things from the year.

(I can understand leaving this one behind…)

New Year's traditions around the world- Medellin, Colombia via and Getty Images

Old Year Dolls… Heating Up The New Year

 via (FREDY AMARILES/AFP/Getty Images)


#7  Scotland

The Fire Balls photo at the top is from the Scottish celebration known as Hogmanay (When I first heard my Scots friends talking about this festive occasion, I couldn’t understand why they had a holiday called Hug-My-Knee. That was all I could make out of their Scots accent- not that Hug My Knee is any less interesting than men in kilts swinging their fire balls about. Just sayin’.)

The Torchlight Procession is another Hogmanay ritual, which kickstarts a multi-day celebration.

On the evening of December 30 in Edinburgh, a torch-bearing crowd lights the way from George IV Bridge to Calton Hill, where a fantastic fireworks finale shines over the hill.

On the following evening, New Year’s Eve, revelers beeline to Princes Street for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party and the Concert in the Gardens.

Live bands and DJs take center stage at the outdoor party, as fireworks burst into the sky and illuminate Edinburgh Castle.” 

Here’s a little more wackiness from Edinburgh for this New Year’s Day splash out. Maybe it’s a good way to cure a hangover?

Over 1000 New Year revelers, in various stages of wackiness, brave freezing conditions in the River Forth in front of the Forth Rail Bridge during the annual Loony Dook Swim on January 1, 2012 in South Queensferry.   Ok then… Moving right along!

New Year's traditions: Loony Dook Edinburgh Scotland
Loony Dook? Ah-yup, looks so to me!

Moving on to another crazy water tradition… this time we go to Holland.

#6 Scheveningen, The Netherlands

Staying with the Polar plunge swim theme… A record number of 10,000 people took the plunge in the 2014 traditional New Year’s dip in the icy waters of the North Sea near The Hague in Netherlands. The high turnout was attributed to the mild weather with a sea temperature of 8 degrees (46F) compared to 4 degrees (39F) last year. [Ooooh, that makes it sooo much more comfortable… WT#%*&!]

Traditional icy New Year's swim in the North Sea at Scheveningen, near The Hague, Netherlands. (Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Traditional icy New Year’s swim in the North Sea at Scheveningen, near The Hague, Netherlands. (Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

#5 Ecuador

In the city of Quito, on December 31st masks are sold for the traditional competition of dummies to celebrate the new year. The competition involves burning a life-size dummy which represents an event or person which had a negative impact on the year.

(I think perhaps I recognize some members of our US Congress among those masks…! We definitely have some contenders in the “event or person which had a negative impact on the year” category!)

In Panama, effigies of politicians are also burned at midnight. The belief is that it marks the end of one year and wards off evil spirits in the coming year. Yeah, I can see where burning a politician would keep his evil away. Oh wait that was only an effigy… never mind!

Masks are sold in a street of Quito, on December 31, 2013 for the traditional competition of dummies to celebrate the new year. The competition involves burning a life-size dummy which represents an event or person which had a negative impact on the year. (JUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images)

Masks are sold in a street of Quito, on December 31 for the traditional competition of dummies to celebrate the new year. (JUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images)

#4 Red (Tie among Italy, France and Turkey)

Let’s just say several cultures have a thing for RED. It’s presumed to be a very lucky color. This photo is in France- oddly enough, at a nudist beach.

People take part in a traditional sea bathing to mark the year's end on December 31, 2013 on a nudist beach in Le Cap d'Agde, southern France. (PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Traditional sea bathing to mark the year’s end on a nudist beach in Le Cap d’Agde, southern France. (PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

This photo shows people taking part in a traditional sea bathing to mark the year’s end on a nudist beach in Le Cap d’Agde, southern France.

Uh, wait a minute… What is there about a costumed couple on a nudist beach, going for a swim in frigid waters that says “Traditional” to you??    Oh those French! Ooh la la…

Nicole King says, “In Italy, couples give each other red underwear at New Year.” (We’ll have to take her word for it, I haven’t checked that deeply!)

In Turkey, Mexico, and elsewhere, there are a lot of yellow and red underwear displays popping up in retail clothing stores around town. Don’t worry, it’s not an underwear fetish, it’s actually a New Year’s Eve tradition in these countries.

Those who choose to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve are believed to have luck in love in the coming year, while those who wear yellow underwear are believed to have luck with money in the coming year. But… don’t pick out a yellow or red pair of underwear from the drawers; tradition is they must be worn for the first time on New Year’s Eve!

Not to confuse the issue here between red and yellow underwear, but in Argentina it is thought that wearing PINK underwear will aid in attracting love… but then they also believe eating beans will help you find a new job or keep the one you have… too many. however, and you could be out on the street altogether, if you get the drift.

Unless of course you’re in Bolivia… then you have to change underwear!

It is much like the New Year tradition followed in Mexico, where people wear yellow underwear for inviting luck with the one difference being that Bolivians wait for midnight put on yellow underwear. Bolivians believe that with the change in the undergarment at the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve will also bring about change in their fortunes.

With all this underwear intrigue, maybe it’s just lucky to be wearing underwear at midnight?

#3 South Africa

Moving on… we go to Johannesburg. This wondrous and colorful festival on Nuwejaarsdag and “Second New Year”.

It is reported that people of Johannesburg throw old appliances out the window on New Year’s Eve (out with the old -bad- and in with the new?) However, no one except the appliance dealers is around to confirm this story. Anyone else is recovering from appliance-inflicted head wounds.

In a broader tradition, there is significant historical background behind the concept of the “Second New Year” and the significance of its celebration in South Africa.

Parade character in Johannesburg, S.Africa

Nuwejaarsdag (Second New Year) festival character in Johannesburg, S.Africa

“Slaves of the era were given one day off each year and they used this opportunity to visit friends from the one house to another, dress up in festive attire and to celebrate their own “New Year”. They utilized the second day of the New Year as a way to protest against their oppressed lifestyle by engaging in cheerful singing, dancing, and parading through the streets.

The second day of New Year was an event that grew in later years, in which brass bands were incorporated and people’s outfits became more colorful. The bands and outfits were significant to specific groups and people started to perform and compete against each other as they marched throughout the streets of Cape Town. Today’s festivities occur on New Year’s Day with more than 13,000 painted faces belonging to people dressed in colorful outfits with props, umbrellas, whistles, and other items make noise.  This occasion turns Cape Town’s streets into a vibrant rush of beats and lively lyrics.”

In the Bahamas, the New Year is celebrated also with a parade, called Junkanoo, in which revelers wear costumes months in the making and for which prizes are awarded.

By the way, as a totally unrelated note, did you know that “the proportion of people who can roll their tongue [like the guy in the photo above] ranges from 65 to 81 percent, with a slightly higher proportion of tongue-rollers in females than in males (Sturtevant 1940, Urbanowski and Wilson 1947, Liu and Hsu 1949, Komai 1951, Lee 1955)”? (from University of Delaware, John McDonald).  How’s that for a wacky fact to tuck away for your New Year party talk?

A photo with this article showed Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) can, but Hermoine (Emma Watson) cannot. So much for statistics!

#2   Scandinavia (regionally, not because we think they are all the same)

It’s a longtime Finnish tradition to predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, and then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening. A heart or ring shape means a wedding in the New Year; a ship forecasts travel; and a pig shape signifies plenty of food. Germany and Austria are also reported to share this tradition.

Photo of Norwegian "Kransekake" dessert for New year

Norwegian Kransekake

In Norway and Denmark, a dessert called “Kransekake” is eaten to celebrate the New Year. The treat is a cake composed of many layers, made with marzipan in between and a bottle of wine hidden in the center. Who says theses Scandinavians don’t know how to party? Don’t forget these are the same Danes we discovered last year like to throw used dishes at their friend’s doors on New Year’s Eve as a means to show their integrity and loyalty towards their dear ones. Just be sure to keep your door closed!

In Norway they also have another dessert as a part of New Year traditions. Families also prepare the symbolic dish of rice pudding with an almond mixed in it. It is sweet in taste, and eating it is believed to confer one with a sweet year ahead. Also, one who gets the hidden almond out of the rice pudding is considered to have a lucky year ahead, with lots of wealth and fortune in favor. All without wearing special underwear! There’s something to be said for that.

As for Sweden,  ”

The turn of the year was considered a magical time, when people tried to foresee the future. One way of telling your future was to mould lead in water and then interpret the figures this produced. (Similar to Finland’s tradition)

Another was to toss shoes. If your shoe landed with the toe pointing towards the door, it meant you would move away or even die during the year. [If young skaters tossed their skates and the blade landed toward the door they would be drafted by the NHL and come play for the Washington Capitals hockey team, becoming top-ranked center-men.   I just made that up…  could you tell?]

New Year’s Day was thought to be symbolic for the year as a whole. So it was important not to carry anything out of the house, as this meant discarding happiness for the rest of the year.

If the sun shone on New Year’s Day, a good year could be expected. Ever since 1893, when the custom began at the Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm, the country’s churches have rung in the New Year at midnight. [according to the official site (]


#1  Belarus

Getting votes for the most creative use of traditions is Belarus. Read on to see what I mean…

Will the REAL Father Frost please kick-step higher?

Will the REAL Father Frost please kick-step higher?

Photo credit: (Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images)

Straw is the most important aspect of the various New Year Traditions in Belarus, being used for parts of the fortune-telling that takes place between Christmas and New Year.

Adults draw straws from the Christmas table to foresee their future in the coming year. Christmas carolers, clothes, wishes and treats are all Belarusian traditions intended to bring good luck and fortune to people during the New Year.

But, one of the most unusual ads for spending New Year in a particular region, is this one from MedTravelBelarus.

Spend “New Year in Belarus, in a small village Pogost in Gomel region. CNN gives advice to spend time there because of very unusual tradition of celebrating Koliady, a folk holiday that was originally a pagan holiday but later appropriated to coincide with Christmas and the New Year.

During its celebration young people perform folk plays for the public, locals dress up as animals and carry animal’s heads on a stick to go trick-or-treating in village neighborhoods.

One more tradition is to make a star from wire, put a candle there and go from house to house, singing songs and getting presents and food. The star symbolizes a Bethlehem star which came out when Jesus was born.

Come to Belarus and take part in celebrations which will be held from December 25 to January 7. Coming to Belarus you will have a great chance to have medical checkup and to have some not complicated plastic operation. [And they don’t mean on your credit card!]  

In this case you will kill two birds with one stone: you will spend amazing time taking part in celebration and will improve your appearance.”

Well, ok then…  that’s one (very creative, though not necessarily traditional) way to celebrate New Year’s…

Just in case you know someone who’s interested, here’s the latest price check;

Prices for Plastic Surgery in Belarus Procedure Price (EUR)

  • Breast enlargement (including implants)  €2500 (Remember how important straw is?)
  • Breast uplift (2 sides) €1750
  • Nose reconstruction €1100 – €2500
  • Tummy tuck (Abdominoplasty) €2000
  • Ear pinning (2 sides) €600
  • Facelift  2200 – €2700
  • Liposuction (1 zone) €330

*All other services (staff work, anesthesia, medication, etc.) are INCLUDED in operation cost *Additional pre and post operation consultations are FREE of charge.

Cost of New Year’s Eve drinks … priceless!

(Here’s the web page if you want to see their little video… )

So that rounds out our 2015  10 Day Countdown of Weird & Wonderful New Year’s Traditions.

I hope it brought a bit of New year cheer.

And, while you sit at home in your multi-colored underwear, eating round fruits, throwing cream on the floor, you can watch these celebrations below and feel like you have all the angles covered for a wonderful New year to come, whenever your region celebrates the event!



And with that we bid you all…


Happy New Year in Russin (Cyrillic) script

A Very Happy- and perhaps wacky- New Year!


Resources in case you want to read more… (Really? haven’t I convinced you? Go out, celebrate… buy new underwear!)

9 thoughts on “New Year’s Traditions 10 Day Countdown of the Weird & Wonderful

  1. What a fun post with lots of interesting traditions! But I’m afraid I didn’t do any of the recommended actions for attracting good fortune. When I was growing up in the Midwest, our tradition was to eat beans on January 1st to ensure a prosperous year – unfortunately it never really worked for our family. But I like beans, so maybe I’ll give it another try.
    Hope you have a wonderful New Year! ~Margo


    • Happy New Year to you as well, Margo! If beans don’t work, you and Jeff could always go down to that beach in France at Le Cap D’Agde… that could provide a very different beginning to your New Year! (I wouldn’t recommend those red costumes however… too hard to swim in!)

      Here’s to a wonderful 2015 with many more French adventures to report! 😉


  2. I cook Hoppin’ John (Black-eyed peas and rice). Even one small bite on New Year’s day will confer luck for the next year. It always works great. Last year, while in France, I couldn’t find the magic beans. And look what happened to our family. This year we ate hoppin’ john for three days to be sure we got it right. 2015 will be great.

    Happy New Year!


    • And Happiest of New Year’s to you and yours. This year has to be better than last! And it sounds like it already is.

      I remember reading of your trevails last year, thinking this couldn’t be more unfortunate… then the flood came and it was… Oy! May those days remain distant memories in your rear view mirror.

      Being from Texas, we’re used to this combination for New Year’s. Many fond memories of starting the New Year with the Rose Parade, football and Black Eyed Peas…

      My ex-husband, however, was a northerner (what was I thinking?) who had no clue about Black Eyed Peas, for new year luck or otherwise.

      Once when he was still in the Navy and we had $15 for 2 weeks of food, I said that we were having black eyed peas (with ham hocks) and cornbread for dinner. Very economical and filling, I thought. He replied that I could have those Black Eyed Peas, he’d take the corn bread… His bad luck- that’s why he’s an ex. Let that be a lesson to him (and others like him) – never misunderestimate the power of the beans!

      Best wishes to you and yours, to us all. Looking forward to many happy exchanges in the coming year!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Silly guy. He sure missed a lot of good eat’in. “the power of the beans” There may be a post or a poem in this. 🙂

        Yes. This year will be better for us. I’ll be sure of it.

        Corn bread. I have to make some corn bread. I got out of the habit in France. It was NOT a corny place.:-)

        All the best.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: IGlobal Freedom: How To Use Your Blog To Build Your Online Business

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