The Most Interesting New Year’s Traditions From Around the World - Culture | MERRY JANE
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The Most Interesting New Year’s Traditions From Around the World

Try them and maybe your 2017 will be better than the shit-show that was 2016!

by Claire Downs

New Year’s signals a new beginning. It’s time to remove the knife 2016 repeatedly stabbed us with, and look forward to 12 untarnished months awaiting our futures. One of the best things about NYE is that it’s is an incredibly universal holiday, celebrated globally. Whether ritualized on Jan. 1, or another culturally determined date, the day is a chance to reflect on the past, present, and future. Promises in the form of resolutions or goal-setting are one way to hold oneself accountable to be a little better. But, wouldn’t it be easier if there were some way to completely ensure that the next 365 days would be superior to the last?

Many cultures around the world have long-practiced traditions performed yearly to help ward off the possibility of a lousy new year. Some are superstitious and few have proven results, but what’s the harm in trying? After 2016, it’s probably wise to do everything in your power to make sure 2017 is a massive improvement.

Here are some New Year’s traditions and superstitions from around the globe. Give them a shot and report back next year!

Throw Out Your Old Appliances

For the month leading up to NYE, residents in Johannesburg, South Africa, stockpile their used appliances. Then, on Jan. 1, they toss them off of their roofs and out their windows for good luck. Just make sure to look before you toss anything!

Stroll Around the Block With an Empty Suitcase

In Columbia, if you take a walk around the block with an empty suitcase, you will be sure to travel in the New Year. If you’re in icy climates or you’re very high, be careful while executing this tradition.

Throw Plates at Your In-law’s Door

In Denmark, it’s a tradition to throw plates at the doors of your friends and relatives for good luck. The Danish also leap off chairs right as the New Year strikes to banish bad spirits.

Interpret Molten Tin

The Finns love to participate in some good old-fashioned molybdomancy this time of year. No, that’s not some kind of sex thing, it’s the art of interpreting hot molten tin in water. If the tin forms a bubbly surface, one can expect a good financial year. If the tin forms a key, expect a promotion!

Vibe With Round Shapes

In the Philippines, round shapes and circular objects symbolize prosperity for the coming year. Some people wear polka dots, while others consume a bunch of round fruit.

Play With Loose Corn

If you have a pile of corn and a rooster (maybe in Brooklyn?), this Belarusian tradition could work for your single ladies. Place corn in front of all the single women at a party, and let the rooster choose which woman’s corn to eat. The one he chooses will be the next to get married. Another game from Belarus: Have a married woman hide some bread and a ring around her house. Whichever single friend is the first to find the bread will marry a rich husband, whoever finds the ring will marry a handsome one.

Put on Your Fancy Panties

In Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, and Venezuela, it’s common to see big outdoor sales on red and yellow underwear leading up to Jan. 1. That’s because wearing brand new red underwear is said to bring love in the New Year, while wearing yellow drawers brings money.

Commune With the Ocean

Brazilians also love to spend some time on New Year’s Day on the beach. Jumping seven waves (one for each day of the week) will supposedly make for a good year. Making an offering to the goddess Lemanja is also a custom. Throw some flowers into the ocean—if the flowers come back, Lemanja did not accept them. If the flowers stay in the ocean, it’s going to be a good year.

Invite Someone Tall, Dark, and Handsome Over

This tradition is more than just a one-night stand. In Scotland, the first person to enter one’s home on New Year’s Day participates in a custom called “first-footing” for good luck in the New Year. This person cannot be in the home at the strike of midnight, and exiting and re-entering doesn’t work. Lore stipulates that this first person should be tall, dark-haired, and male to maximize luck-getting potential. Ideally, this first-footer should also bear a gift: Whiskey, coins, bread, salt, and coal represent good cheer, financial prosperity, food, flavor, and warmth, respectively.

Waste an Egg

On New Year’s Eve in El Salvador, people crack an egg at 11:59 and watch the shape of the yolk. At midnight, whatever shape the yolk is in dictates how 2017 will go. If it’s a house, you might move next year. If it’s a heart, love is on the horizon. This tradition definitely assumes that we can all deftly crack eggs.

Waste Some Lentils

In Mexico, it’s customary to leave a pile of dry lentils outside your door for good luck. It’s a good idea, because in when you stumble home, you’ll have a weird snack ready to eat!

Shut the Fuck Up

In Bali, a “Day of Silence” is observed from 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day to 6 a.m. the following morning. Also known as Nyepi, this tradition mandates a ban on talking, eating, using electricity, general revelry, and working.

Quickly Gobble 12 Grapes

In Spain, it’s customary to eat 12 grapes as fast as possible, right after the countdown. Each grape symbolizes good luck for a month in the New Year.


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Claire Downs is a writer and comedian based out of Los Angeles. She's written for Nickelodeon, VH1, Funny or Die, and Hello Giggles. You can follow her on Twitter @clairecdowns. She prefers Indica to Sativa, in case you're wondering.



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