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Weird New Year Traditions

In an earlier entry I shared some bizarre December traditions around the world. Of course there are some strange choices to ring in the New Year. It may be too late for you to try some of these, but there’s always next year (unless those doomsday guys are finally right this time).

To help you choose I’ve put everything in convenient categories.

Burning things

Stonehaven fireballs 2003

Scots parade through the street swinging fireballs Photo by MrPurple at English Wikipedia [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Fire is always festive. You could go with the fireworks, but there are so many more interesting things to burn! In Scotland they have the fireball ceremony—the best one is in Stonehaven—where local people of all ages walk through the streets spinning flaming wire cages around their heads. The cages are designed to keep the spinners safe but the onlookers may be vulnerable! The purpose is to burn off the bad spirits from last year and bring the new spirits in clean and fresh.

NYE-burning viejo in Ecuador

Effigy burning in Ecuador Photo by Carlos Adampol Galindo from DF, México (Fiesta de año nuevo, Vilcabamba, Ecuador) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In Ecuador and Panama they celebrate the New Year by burning scarecrows and effigies of famous people. Ecuadorians also burn photographs from last year. (Unfortunately those embarrassing ones you posted to social media are there forever.)

Wearing things

Red underwear is a popular item around Christmas in Turkey.

You’ve probably packed that Santa hat away, but there are fun things to wear for the New Year. In South America colorful underwear is encouraged. (Here’s a guide to help you pick the right one.) In Turkey, red is the preferred color and it’s very common for women to receive red panties as a Christmas gift to help them prepare.

In Mexico it’s traditional to wear white for good luck. In Chile they put money in their shoes. Of course, the silly hat is always an option.

Throwing things

The street is littered with furniture tossed from windows in South Africa as people clear for the new year

What could start the new year better than a little healthy flinging things about. You might follow the lead of the Romanians who toss coins into the river to bring prosperity into the new year. You might bang the walls and doors with Christmas bread like they do in Ireland.

People in Denmark smash old plates on people’s doorsteps. The more broken plates you find on your doorstep the more friends you are seen to have. People actually save dishes throughout the year to have a good stash of ammunition come December.

If you live in an apartment overlooking the street you could delight the neighbors with the Puerto Rican tradition of throwing a bucket of water out the window to drive away evil spirits.

The big winners of the throwing-things competition have to be in Johannesburg, South Africa. They don’t mess around on New Years! They throw old furniture out the windows to make way for new things in the new year!

Eating things

Enjoy a plate of pancakes as they do in France

You may demand your black eyed peas or tamales on New Year’s eve, but have you thought of eating twelve grapes like they do in Spain (and Puerto Rico). Hungarians enjoy kocsonya (a cold pork aspic) but no fish or chicken, which might cause luck to fly (or swim) away.

Bolivia has a fun tradition of baking coins into cakes and other sweets. If you find one in your sweet you get good luck in the coming year.

If all that sounds too complicated, join the French and just enjoy some pancakes to bring in the new year.

Other things

Need more? Japan really rings in the new year with a ceremony where they ring bells 108 times to correspond to the number of evil desires that need to be cleansed. In Venice they enjoy fireworks over the Piazza San Marco, and a bit of snogging, as many gather to kiss in the new year!. (You can probably try this out at home as well.)

Revelers don bear skins for the traditional Romanian bear dance

Animals play a big part in new year traditions around the world. Romanians dance with bears. (I know one that might dance with me if I bought him a drink.) Belgians try to talk to their cows and Romanians talk to other animals. Success means good luck for the year. The people in Brasstown, NC do an “opossum-drop” where an opossum in a transparent box is lowered over a crowd of revelers. (Perhaps this is a new adventure for your cat.)

A Latin tradition is walking your suitcase around the block to encourage travel. What could it hurt?

My favorite tradition, though, is from central Chile. Apparently they have a sort of campout in the graveyard. It apparently all started with a family who broke into the cemetery to be near their dead father. The mayor now opens the yard for a vigil where many gather to remember loved ones.

However you choose to celebrate this new year I hope it is truly prosperous and joyful for you all. Keep it weird!

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