12 Bizarre New Years Celebrations Around the World
From premature burials to smashing plates and throwing toilet seats out of the window.
It’s that time of the year again–well, the end of the year and the start of a new one. People around the world will be turning the page to 2022 by partying in different ways, because no matter the religion or custom, just about everyone celebrates New Year’s Eve. But not all countries and cultures celebrate it the same way. Here are 12 of the most unique, and occasionally bizarre, rituals.
A typical Mediterranean fruit plays a key role in New Year’s celebrations: succulent blood-red pomegranates. The first guest to step inside a house where New Year celebrations are taking place must throw a pomegranate to the ground with all their strength and pray that it splits into infinite parts. The more the seeds (which represents money) rolling across the floor, the greater fortune it will bring to the host’s family. Another ritual involves hanging an onion at the doorstep, which is believed to chase away evil.
Late at night families leave their homes and go to the temple where they drink sake while listening to 108 gong strikes which announce the beginning of a new year–and a fresh start. The number 108 is said to be linked to the number of sins a person has been allowed to commit in the past 365 days, which will be washed away when the clock strikes midnight.
There may be no more cathartic way to ring in the New Year than by following the lead of a Denmark tradition: smashing plates. But not on the floor, nope, you do it against the door of your loved ones. It’s a way to show you love them. The more tableware you throw, the more you care. Piles of debris left at a doorstep are a good thing—make it look like an earthquake struck to show you really care. Which means it’s probably best to steer clear of any neighbors without visible signs of wreckage–they could be bringers of ill-omen.
Who says New Year’s Eve is just for the living? The dearly beloved dead are also entitled to some fun, at least once a year. That’s why many people in Chile gather at graveyards for a spooky festivity, where they can reunite and celebrate with the souls of those they’ve lost along the way.
Some in Spain compete in grape-eating contests to see who can gulp down the most grapes in 12 seconds. Grapes are thought to bring lots of money due to the many seeds. The contest consists of swallowing “12 grapes of fortune” as soon as midnight strikes, one per second for each month of the calendar. If you skip just one grape, the trick won’t work so expect a frugal year.
Families set fire to papier-mâché scarecrows at midnight and burn old photos linked to negative moments and sorrow. The results are giant bonfires across the country. Fire is believed to have a purifying power that will kill all the bad things and vibes experienced in the past 12 months–and also ward off whatever evil may be lurking in the new year.
In Italy, sex, alcohol, and food rules at New Year’s. There’s a cenone (the “big meal”) that runs for hours. Eating cotechino e lenticche (lentils and pork sausage) is common at this dinner, as it’s said to make you rich. Spumante sparkling wine is applied instead of perfume, while babies’ pinkies are dipped in the drink to suck on. Meanwhile, sex is a must. There’s a saying: if you don’t do it on New Year’s Eve, you won’t do it year-round. Red kinky underwear is worn to bring good luck.
But it’s not all bacchanalian. There’s a bit of cleaning, too. Old things are thrown out of the window on New Year’s, usually including toilet seats. So be careful when going for a late-night stroll—that toilet seat might land on your head.
If you believe animals talks, then celebrate New Year’s Eve in Romania. At midnight, many Romanian farmers wish their cows, goats, and sheep all the best for the year ahead. It’s believed that on this special night, animals are given a one-off magical opportunity to talk with humans. But the farmer must never try to translate what the animal is saying, for it could bring down hell on his family.
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Beware of who the first person is who steps into your house in Scotland–the physical traits of guests must be fully vetted beforehand to avoid turning a day of joy into a terrifying year of jinxes. The person who sets the “first foot” inside the house in the New Year must be dark-haired. Blonds, or fair-haired people generally, are banned until this happens. This is because their looks are reminiscent of th ose of the Vikings, who centuries ago conquered Scotland bringing havoc.
Edgar Allan Poe would have loved this: enacting one’s own funeral. Coffins are not just linked to death, they can also be used as spots of rebirth. Thais believe that “dying” at New Year triggers a “new life” so they have fun taking turns lying in coffins and holding flowers at the Takien temple in Bangkok. Chanting monks oversee the ritual, which purifies both body and spirit, and place bright pink silk sheets over the fake corpses.
United States of America
It’s probably the most scenic of all: spectacular fireworks lighting up New York’s Times Square during the traditional sparkling “ball drop” representing the Big Apple. People from all over the world fly over just to see the show. Confetti showers and kisses among street revelers are a must. Across the U.S. other symbolic objects are lowered from the sky including a giant peach in Atlanta (dubbed, in fact, The Big Peach), the fleur-de-lis in New Orleans, and a walleye fish in Ohio.
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In Brazil, underwear color choice can be crucial at New Year’s: red will bring love, yellow make you rich, and green is full of luck. And in Rio De Janeiro it’s not just about what you wear–there’s also a lot of spiritualism. On iconic Copacabana Beach, people dive into the sea with little wooden boats filled with food offerings and flowers to sea goddess Yemanja. Then they kneel on the sand at the feet of the goddess’ statue, praying for happiness.
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