My New Year’s Eve is usually spent in my pajamas, in my house, watching one of the New Year’s Eve shows (and my husband sleeping on the couch), and forcing myself to stay up to watch the ball drop in Times Square. I’m not complaining. This is a perfectly good way for me to spend December 31st, but I decided to try something (actually a few things) new this year.
While Americans watch the ball drop, people around the world have different traditions, so I did a little research and picked a few to try. This year, I was lucky enough to have my 20-something-year-old children home so they volunteered to participate too:) When you read through the activities that follow, it’s important to know that we did these activities at the time midnight occurred in the country it was from. This meant that we were celebrating throughout the day, starting with Japan’s tradition at 10:00 am. Since most of these traditions involved food, this made it much easier to try so many.
'10:00 AM EST - Soba noodles (midnight in Japan)
In Japan, it is believed that eating soba noodles symbolizes a break from the old year since the noodles are easy to bite in half but still firm. This goes back to a time when a Buddhist temple gave noodles to the poor. It was strange eating noodles for breakfast, but something I could do again.
11:00 AM EST - 12 round fruits (midnight in the Philippines)
In the Philippines, 12 round fruits are served on New Year’s eve and are thought to represent coins and, therefore, prosperity. Each round fruit represents one month of the year. Trying to find 12 different round fruits was challenging and was what led me to the Asian Supermarket the day before because I can always find an amazing selection of produce there. We ate these throughout the day, so it was much easier than eating the 12 giant grapes shown below.
4:00 PM EST- Sprinkling salt (midnight in Turkey)
It is considered good luck to sprinkle salt on the doorstep at midnight. This was an easy and quick one to try. More peace and prosperity to come!
6:00 PM EST - Eating grapes (midnight in Spain)
In Spain, eating 12 grapes at midnight is supposed to give you good luck and prosperity in the coming year. The key is to eat all of them very fast, which isn’t the safest thing to do. This activity was even more challenging because the grapes I had bought the day before were from my local Asian Supermarket, and they were huge! I have seriously never seen grapes this big!
7:00 PM EST - Banging bread (midnight in Ireland)
Apparently, banging loaves of Christmas bread against the walls and doors will ward off evil spirits. It can’t hurt, right?
7:01 PM EST - Welcoming a tall man with dark hair (midnight in Scotland)
First Footing is a tradition in Scotland that occurs the day before January 1st called Hogmanay. According to this tradition, the first person to cross the threshold after midnight should be a dark-haired male if you wish to have good luck in the coming year. To have even greater prosperity, that male should be carrying gifts of coal, salt, shortbread, and whisky. I recruited my 6’1” dark-haired son for the job! (We didn’t have any coal or shortbread lying around so he only carried salt and whisky).
10:00 PM EST- Seven pomegranate seeds (midnight in Brazil)
There are a few different traditions on New Year’s Eve in Brazil that involve the number 7. Seven pomegranate seeds are eaten “to keep the purse full,” so we all did this. Only time will tell! :)
There are many other New Year's Eve traditions celebrated around the world that we didn’t attempt this year because we didn’t have the right supplies or didn’t want to make a huge mess (like throwing plates at our neighbors’ houses as they do in Denmark), but we will plan for and try to add a few new activities to celebrate the end of 2023. Do you have a special way of celebrating? I’d love to hear about it!
Green Grapes And Red Underwear: A Spanish New Year's Eve (article in NPR)
The Customs and Traditions of Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year
35 Best New Year Traditions to Bring You All the Luck
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I love this idea - so fun and interesting!