How The World Celebrates New Year’s: A Look at 5 Traditions Around the World

All around the world people gather together to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another. Customs and traditions vary from country to country and have different significance to different cultures.

Check out this list of how the new year is celebrated in various countries around the world!


Japan – Oshogatsu

お雑煮 Ozouni

Ozouni Rice-Cake Soup – お雑煮 (Photo – CC: David Z, Flickr)

Celebration Day: The Japanese celebrate the New Year (Oshogatsu -正月) on January 1, and it is the biggest holiday of the year.

Food: On New Year’s Eve (omisoka -大晦日), many people in Japan eat buckwheat noodles called Toshikoshi-soba (年越しそば) to wish for a life that is as long as the noodles they are eating. On New Year’s Day, the Japanese celebrate their culture by eating various foods, including Ozouni (お雑煮), a special soup that contains rice cake called mochi (餅), and Osechi Ryōri (お節料理), a compartmentalized bento box containing specially prepared foods.

Gifts: Children ages 22 and below are given envelopes filled with money from relatives and acquaintances called otoshidama (お年玉) and adults receive nengajo (年賀状), New Years greeting cards with lottery numbers on them.

Traditions: As midnight draws close on New Year’s Eve in Japan, bells at Buddhist temples around the country hold a ritualistic ceremony called Joya no Kane (除夜の鐘), where bells ring 108 times to signify the 108 earthly desires being dispelled as the world moves from one year into the next. As the sun rises on New Years Day, you can find many Japanese people on mountaintops and at beaches facing the sun and praying for a healthy and prosperous new year. On New Year’s Day, Japanese families practice Hatsumode (初詣) by heading to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to make wishes for the New Year and to find out their fortunes using Omikuji (just like I did when I visited the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo).Other traditions in Japan around the Japanese New Year include:

  • Osoji (大掃除) – a cleaning of the house to welcome in the new year
  • Kadomatsu (門松) – bamboo decorations that are put up to celebrate the new year

Mexico – Año Nuevo

12 grapes Mexico

The tradition of eating 12 grapes (Photo – CC: Chris Oakley, Flickr)

Celebration Day: Mexico celebrates the New Year (Año Nuevo) on January 1.

Food: On New Year’s Eve, Mexican families have late-night dinners in their homes and end the night by eating a total of twelve grapes (las doce uvas de la suerte) to each chime of the bell at midnight, which is said to bring good luck in the new year.

Traditions: In Mexico, there are quite a number of traditions that people celebrate that vary among regions and households. In many large cities, parties (fiestas) are held that include music, dancing, and fireworks. Here are some other traditions that occur across Mexico to celebrate the new year.

  • Luck: On New Year’s Eve, you may get lucky depending on the color of underwear that you wear. If you wear a pair of bran new red underwear into the new year, it is believed that you will have luck in love; and if you wear a pair of brand new yellow underwear into the New Year, it is believed that you will have prosperity in the coming year. Some people also believe that placing a gold ring in a cup of champagne will bring prosperity.
  • Cleaning: In many Mexican households, people clean their homes from back to front to prepare for the new year, and some people even go as far as traveling to 7 churches in a process called ‘la limpieza de las siete Iglesias‘ to get holy water to cleanse their homes.
  • Less Tears: Mexicans take a glass of water and toss it out out of a window to signify less tears in the new year.
  • Travel: In Mexico, they believe that if you take an empty suitcase and walk around the neighborhood, you will travel during the new year.

Italy – Capodanno

Italy Zampone alla lenticchio

Zampone alla lenticchio (Photo – CC: Alpha, Flickr)

Celebration Day: Italians celebrate the New Year (Capodanno) on January 1.

Food: On New Year’s Eve, Italians have a big feast called La Festa di San Silvestro, where they traditionally eat pork (zampone or cotechino) and lentils (lenticchie), which signify the richness of life and money. At the end of the meal, Italians eat grapes and dried fruits.

Traditions: After eating a large meal with their families, some Italians celebrate the new year by creating bonfires and setting off firecrackers which are said to ward off evil spirits. In some parts of Italy (such as Naples), households practice a tradition called Lancio dei Cocci, where they throw old unwanted items out of their windows at midnight to symbolize letting go of old things to prepare for new ones.

Other traditions in Italy include drinking Italian sparkling wine such as spumante or prosecco, playing a game called Tombola, and wearing red underwear to bring luck in the new year.


Peru – Año Nuevo

Pisco Sour

Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru (Photo – CC: Uncoolbob, Flickr )

Celebration Day: Peruvians celebrates the New Year (Año Nuevo) on January 1.

Food: During New Year’s Eve celebrations, Peruvians feast on chicken and turkey and wash it down with Pisco Sour, the country’s national drink.

Traditions: Peruvians have a large number of traditions to celebrate new year. Some of these traditions include wearing (brand new) yellow underwear, clothing, and accessories to bring good luck into the new year, putting coins in their shoes to bring wealth and prosperity into the new year, and placing potatoes under the couch cushions to predict finances in the new year. Here are some other new year’s traditions that are celebrated in different parts Peru:

  • Stuffed dolls (muñecos) are burned to signify the end of bad vibes and energy.
  • Six green and six purple grapes are eaten under a table at the stroke of midnight while the consumer making a wish for every grape that is eaten.

Germany – Neujahr

Pfannkuchen

Pfannkuchen (Photo – CC: tin.G, Flickr)

Celebration Day: Germans celebrates the New Year (Neujahr) on January 1.

Food: During New Year’s Eve (Silvester) celebrations, Germans like to eat fish (such as Silvesterkarpfen or pickled herring), pork schnitzel, or Neujahrsgans (goose). When drinking, German’s like to have Feuerzangenbowle (German Fire Punch) during their meal and at midnight they have a glass of Sekt (sparkling wine). After midnight, Germans love to feast on jelly doughnuts called Pfannkuchen (/Berliner outside of Berlin).

Traditions: Germans like to do a bit of fortune telling on New Year’s Eve with an activity called Bleigießen, where lead is melted over a flame and then poured into cold water; after the lead has solidified, the shape of the lead determines what kind of year lies ahead for the lead pourer. Some of the other traditions that you might see around Germany include:

  • Sauerkraut or lentils are eaten to bring blessings and wealth into the new year.
  • Pigs, four leaf clovers, and ladybugs are kept around as they are said to be good luck charms.
  • Families and friends gather to watch the British comedy ‘Table for One’.

Have you ever celebrated New Year’s in a different country? Share below!

By | 2017-07-30T01:09:56+00:00 December 26th, 2015|Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico|9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. kita Dec 27, 2015 at 12:09 am - Reply

    I like Germany the best because of the Jelly Donuts lol. I think it’s neat to see the different cultures around the world celebrate New Years or any other holidays it’s nice to see what traditions they have that may match ours in some form.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Dec 28, 2015 at 9:15 am - Reply

      The jelly donuts sold me too Kita 😀 It is awesome to learn about how the same event is celebrated differently around the world!

  2. Rochkirstin Santos Dec 27, 2015 at 1:15 am - Reply

    The Chinese also believe in eating noodles to get long life and commonly this is eaten during New Year’s day and a person’s birthday. Ham, cheese, fruits, and sweets are also usual items on the dining table. We haven’t celebrated the New Year in a different country because we make sure that we’re home for harmony and prosperity — another superstition.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Dec 28, 2015 at 9:16 am - Reply

      Wow it’s cool to hear that in China and Japan there are similar customs! I would love to spend NYE in either of those countries 😀

  3. Anne Slater-Brooks Dec 27, 2015 at 7:47 am - Reply

    I was in Siem Reap in Cambodia for NYE last year. It was hilarious. The local custom is to attempt to dowse unsuspecting people in flurries of talcum powder. It is wise not to wear your best clothes!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Dec 28, 2015 at 9:17 am - Reply

      I miss Cambodia and cannot wait to get back! That is quite an interesting tradition and it sounds like it would be a lot of fun Anne! 😀

      • Anne Slater-Brooks Dec 28, 2015 at 12:14 pm - Reply

        Yes it is mad! Literally youngsters chasing you round with pots of talc and lots of water. Great fun though especially when the local policeman joined in!

  4. PennyPincherJenny Dec 28, 2015 at 12:52 am - Reply

    I love learning about tradition from
    other cultures! I had no idea that so many parts of the country had
    these traditions about clothing. I can’t believe the year is almost
    over and it’s time for the New Year to begin.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Dec 28, 2015 at 9:18 am - Reply

      Yes, I thought the underwear tradition was very interesting Jenny and you’re right – the year did fly by! 😀

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