New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection, introspection, and goal-setting, but it’s also for spending time with loved ones and seeing the present year out with one last hurrah. It’s followed by people trying desperately to remember to add one to the year number they’re used to writing on documents and sticking to New Year’s resolutions, which 45 percent of Americans usually make.
Celebrating the New Year dates back to 4,000 years ago, when the Babylonians celebrated at the first full moon after the spring equinox. It’s a time of hope and new beginnings, and at the conclusion of each year, many welcome that mental milestone for starting again. Maybe that’s why over one million people gather together in New York City’s Times Square to watch the ball drop, and over one billion watch it on television. Fireworks are set off over the Thames River in London and over Sydney Harbour in Australia. And all over the world, people celebrate in different ways, often with traditions believed to bring luck, financial fortune, love, and happiness. We’ve rounded up 10 ways the world celebrates the New Year — try some of them out to see if they bring you luck in 2016.
New Year’s Eve in Belgium is known as Sint Sylvester Vooranvond, or Saint Sylvester’s Eve. It’s customary to toast with Champagne, kiss, and exchange good tidings. Belgian children craft letters to their parents or godparents complete with decorations like angels and roses and read them aloud on the morning of New Year’s Day.
Travel opens the mind and expands the worldview, so it’s no wonder many Colombians want to ensure the most travel possible in the coming year. Tradition says to run around the block with empty suitcases, but maybe participants should train for it first. The faster they run, the more they’ll supposedly travel.
On New Year’s Day in Denmark, hearing banging and crashing outside one’s home isn’t cause for fear — it’s just proof the resident has a lot of friends. Tradition holds that the amount of broken glasses and plates outside a person’s door is directly related to the amount of luck and friendship he or she will enjoy in the coming year. Besides broken dishes, another Danish tradition is baking a New Year’s treat called kransekage, a ring-shaped cake with steep sides.
One New Year’s tradition in Peru is to use three potatoes to tell a person’s financial fortune for the New Year. One is peeled, one is half-peeled, and one is left untouched, and all three are placed under a chair or couch. The one chosen at midnight at random will foretell the person’s upcoming luck in terms of money. Peeled represents no money, half-peeled suggests a normal year, and the unpeeled potato signifies great fortune.
New Year’s Day in the Philippines is a great excuse not to do laundry, as legend has it that washing clothes on this day will lead to the death of someone in the household. More cheery customs include keeping money in one’s pocket to ensure incoming funds in the New Year and opening doors and windows to let negative energy out and positive in.
Like many countries, in Russia it’s customary to spend the holiday with loved ones. It’s unlucky to start the New Year with unpaid debt. Another New Year’s custom is for a person to write down a wish for the New Year, burn the paper with a candle, mix the ashes into a glass of Champagne, and drink it before the last stroke of midnight. This tradition is so glamorous that it might just work.