New Year’s Customs from Around the World

Around the globe, countries have special or unusual New Year’s customs. Some customs are shared; others vary from country to country. Some are amusing, such as the Thai custom of throwing water on people; and many are intended to bring good luck during the new year ahead, such as the Spanish custom of eating 12 grapes as the clock chimes twelve midnight.

Eating 12 grapes for luck in Spain (Uvas de Suerte)


For a long time, Spanish people have had a traditional custom to celebrate New Year’s Eve. On the last day of the year, the 31st of December, they wait until twelve p.m. Everybody has to have twelve grapes ready to eat when the clock starts to chime. Eating the grapes is very funny because everybody starts the New Year with a full mouthful of grapes. Read more….

Agustine Pascual from Spain

In Taiwan, make sure the chicken’s head is not facing you!

Before we celebrate the Chinese New Year, the boss in your company always treats his/her subordinates to a big meal and a lottery game. The prizes of the lottery game range from M. Benze to $50 gift certificates. Everyone wins a prize; in other words, everyone wins at least fifty dollars.

It sounds fun, right? However, there is one bad thing I have to tell you. According to tradition, the boss usually sets one whole, well-cooked chicken in the middle of the table. After he finishes his speech, to show he appreciates everyone’s effort for the company in the past year, he rotates the table tray to show we are able to start eating. At that moment, you have to make sure the chicken’s head is not facing you. If it is, it means the boss dislikes you, and you will be fired after the Chinese New Year.

Fred Chen from Taiwan

In Colombia, they burn “Mr. Old Year” to forget bad memories!

Burning “Mr. Old Year” is a New Year’s tradition in some cities of Colombia. It requires the participation of the entire family. It is a lot of fun; they fabricate a big stuffed male doll that represents the old year. Then they stuff the doll with different materials. Sometimes they put some little fireworks in it to make it more exciting at the time they burn it. Also, they put things inside that they don’t want anymore, objects that can bring sadness or bad memories.

These things will burn with the old year, meaning that they want to forget all the bad things that happened during the past year. They dress the man with old clothes from each member of the family. Then, on New Year’s Eve at midnight, they set the doll on fire. This symbolizes burning the past and getting ready to start a happy New Year without bad memories of the past.

Martha Leverett from Colombia

Venezuelans write a special letter of wishes, then burn it


In my country, many people think this day brings good luck, so they write a letter asking for many wishes. Then, when the New Year comes, they put all those papers together and burn them to make sure that nobody can read what they wrote.

Luis Schiavo from Venezuela

In Korea, some say sleep can turn your eyebrows white!

My grandmother always says not to sleep on New Year’s Eve. If you sleep, your eyebrows will turn white. I don’t know where these words come from. Of course, it doesn’t happen.

Seong Ah Kim from Korea

Striking the bell 33 time and watching the sunrise in Korea

Every New Year’s Eve we can watch a striking-a-bell ceremony on TV. The bell is struck 33 times. This is in memory of 33 fighters who died for the restoration of Korea.

On New Year’s Day a lot of people go to the sea to watch the sunrise. The beaches of eastern Korea are filled with crowds of people. On seeing the sunrise, people make their new wishes.

Seong Ah Kim from Korea

In Switzerland, they make a toast to remember the good


On the last day of December, everybody is very busy. All the food shops and liquor shops are crowded. People are unfriendly and impatient because shopping takes a long time on this day. Finally, people get home late at seven o’clock, tired from working and shopping, hardly enough energy to start cooking the big meal.
Until 11 o’clock, nobody is very excited, but deep inside we all feel that soon there will soon be coming a moment to think about our past and our future. When finally the clock turns to 12 o’clock, we raise our glasses and make a toast for all the good things that happened in the last year. We kiss everybody not only 3 times, but many times, and hug everybody several times.

Sylvia Bopp from Switzerland

In Brazil, make a wish, then jump seven waves and throw flowers in the sea.

In Brazil, most New Year’s Eve customs are related to good luck or fortune. For example, if they are in a beach city, after midnight, people go to the beach, jump seven waves and throw flowers in the sea while making a wish. This will bring them good luck and fortune. They say that the goddess who protects the sea will make their wishes come true. Because of that, some people also light candles in the sand on the beach. I think this custom came from the mix of the African and Indian cultures that developed in Brazil and have spread from coast to coast.

Renate Pauperio from Brazil

In Mexico, watch for people carrying suitcases around the block!

In Mexico, there are people who take out their suitcases and walk around the block, meaning they wish they could travel next year.

Paola Montsalve from Mexico

In Venezuela, they carry the suitcase around the house!

In my country, people who want to travel take a suitcase and carry it around the house.

Nakari Barrios from Venezuela

Watch out! They throw water on you in Thailand!


Thailand has its specific New Year’s date; it’s different from the normal calendar. The Thai New Year is celebrated on April 13. This day is also a special festival which we call Song-Kran Day.” On this day, Thai people play with water, throwing it on each other.

It’s also a Thai custom that we respect senior citizens, so most Thai people go back to their hometowns to visit their grandparents to ask for good luck.

Piboon Choklerdpatana from Thailand

In Mexico, find a tiny toy in the cake and become a cook!

There’s a custom on January 6th to eat a special cake with a hole in it and a small toy inside—a tiny figure. The person who gets the piece with this tiny kid is supposed to make a special food on February 5th.

Paola Montsalve from Mexico

A big party in Brazil

In all cities in Brazil, we have a big party on New Year’s Eve, especially in Rio de Janeiro where people go to the beaches to watch fireworks. This party used to be a kind of religious party, but today it has become a big show for tourists and citizens. The party’s preparation begins on the morning of the 31st, and the fireworks start at midnight. It lasts around thirty minutes, and everybody makes wishes for the new year: money, love, health. Normally we host more than two million people.

Angela Teixeira from Brazil

China is rich in New Year’s customs


In China, New Year’s Eve is a time for…

  • all family members to get together to chat
  • us to have some special food which we don’t have daily
  • children to wear brand new clothes
  • children to gather lucky money from adults
  • traveling
  • hanging around the flower shows
  • shopping for cleaning one’s house, especially for messy people.

On New Year’s Eve, all family members get together and just stay home to prepare food. Even though some of them work in different cities, they will be home on time. At the dinner, we have lots of foods such as dumplings, chicken, and fish which all have meanings of good luck. After dinner, we all go out to a flower show. We can buy different flowers and some New Year’s stuff. Then we go back home and chat together. In the meantime, we have some snacks. No one will leave until after midnight. Officially, we have nine days for holidays during New Year.

Kelly Chen from China

Wearing han-boks, eating rice cake, and playing yut in Korea

We call New Year’s Day Sul-nal. We don’t have a real New Year’s day on January 1st. We use the lunar calendar, and it shows the days a little differently, just as February can be different, depending on the year. We usually wear Han-Boks which are Korean traditional clothes. We have ancestor memorial sites on the first day in the morning. In order to have this, many relatives come together.

After the rites, we eat Dduk-gook which is made of rice cake and is a kind of soup. Also, whenever we meet our elders, we perform a New Year’s bow. Some older people give New Year’s gifts. New Year’s day is the biggest holiday in Korea, so we usually spend time with the family and relatives.

There are many traditional games on New Year’s Day, such as yut, seesaw (teeter). The game of yut consists of 4 sticks and a board. There are 3-4 teams, and each team has 3 to 4 members, so many people can play this game.

Seung-Hye Lee (Clare) from Korea

Bowing, lucky money, and traditional games in Korea

On New Year’s day, we traditionally wear Korean traditional clothes called Hanbocks. However, nowadays some people wear western clothes.

In the morning, younger generations bow to older generations. For example, children bow to their parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents; and parents bow to their parents.

After bowing, older people give brand new money to the children. This means good luck and good wishes. We have special food for this day. It is a kind of soup made of rice cake.

All family members eat together and give each other good blessings. There are some traditional games for New Year’s Day. I think it is just for family union and for fun. It is winter on those days, so children make a kite and play with them. We also wear special pockets in which we think we can put blessings, but nowadays this custom is disappearing.

Haegyung Lee (Lynn) from Korea

12 bells and 12 grapes in Mexico

We have some special customs. For example, we turn on the TV and wait to see or hear the bell ringing twelve times. Each time the bell rings, we eat one grape and make a wish. Then we hug each other and wish each other a Happy New Year.

Paola Montsalve from Mexico

In Thailand, new things for starting life again

In Thailand, we don’t have specific customs for New Year’s Eve. When the New Year comes, people just celebrate. A few days before New Year’s Day, most people who have migrated from another city to the capital city of Thailand will go back to their own city in order to celebrate with their families. At twelve o’clock when the clock chimes, people usually say, “Happy New Year!” to family members. Some families have fireworks, too.

On the morning on January 1st, children often ask for some blessings or wishes from their parents and grandparents, and both of them will give the children money, usually quite a lot of money. They give them new money. The children will use this money to buy whatever they want because they think when the New Year comes, everything should be new. New things are a good sign for starting life again. Most people think if their past time before New Year’s was bad, the new year will bring them good luck, and they can start their life again.

Rungsima Trahoolngam (Kwang) from Thailand

Champagne, special food, and ‘artificial fires’ in Venezuela


New Year’s Day is a special date in our country just as it is everywhere in the world. We always celebrate this special date by drinking champagne and having a big family dinner. Many kids play with ‘artificial fires’, and they are given many gifts. This kind of celebration has been a tradition for many years.

Luis Schiavo from Venezuela

In Vietnam, grandparents light firecrackers to welcome the New Year!

On the first day of the New Year at 12 midnight, the grandmother or mother in each family has to light firecrackers to receive and welcome the New Year. Then, we go to sleep to wait for the sun to rise. When the sun rises, we wake up and put on new clothes. Then, our grandparents sit on a chair in front of our parents to wish them a happy new year and a long life. Then, our parents sit on the chair to wish us a happy new year and longevity. We keep this custom year after year.

Ngoc-Anh (Annie) Ho from Vietnam

Eating black-eyed peas brings good luck and prosperity

In Georgia, it’s a tradition to eat black-eyed peas and turnip greens. People say that brings good luck and prosperity. The peas represent copper (coins) and the greens are dollars. We say each pea you eat equals one dollar’s worth of earning, and each portion of turnip greens equals $1,000. Read more…

John Davis from the U.S.

Family dinners, fireworks, and fun in Argentina

In Argentina, we gather together with our families for a big late dinner (About 11:00 p.m.) and we wait for midnight. At midnight everybody lights fireworks for half-hour more or less. Then young people go to New Year parties at dance clubs until the next morning. The next day (January 1st) most people will go swimming in rivers, lakes or public swimming pools.

Adrian Genesir from Argentina

Wearing special clothes to preserve tradition and show respect


We usually wear Han-Boks which are Korean traditional clothes.
Seung-Hye Lee (Clare) from Korea

On New Year’s day, we traditionally wear Korean traditional clothes called “Hanbock.” However, nowadays some people wear western clothes
Haegyung Lee (Lynn) from Korea

Wearing clothes to bring good luck, love and peace

Most people wear white clothes on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck and peace for the year that will follow.
Renate Pauperio from Brazil

We usually wear white clothes in order to have good luck during the new year.
Angela Teixeira from Brazil

Many people in Venezuela wear yellow underwear to have good luck in the new year. Luis Schiavo from Venezuela

Some people, especially women, wear red underwear meaning they will find love in the next year.
Paola Montsalve from Mexico