Roughly 13 hours ahead of us, champagne corks will pop 15,000 km to the southeast. Inhabitants of Samoa and the Line Islands will be the first in the world to welcome the new year 2019. While in Germany, at the turn of the year, most people party with friends, pop firecrackers and clink glasses at midnight, there are different traditions and customs in other countries. Big differences can be found not only around the world but also within Europe.
The Scots have been celebrating the three-day Hogmanay for several centuries. The origin of the word Hogmanay has not been conclusively clarified, but it is clear that the Scots begin the new year quite boozy. Torch processions, gift giving and a very special welcome to the first guest of the new year called “first footing” accompany the celebrations. The Russians, too, are also not just celebrating New Year’s Eve. All over the country Jolka festivals are held, where the family sits around the Jolka, the Christmas tree, and feasts. The celebrations on New Year’s Eve begin with a visit from Father Frost, who brings presents just like our Santa. Since the Russian Orthodox Church is based on the Gregorian calendar, Christmas is not celebrated until the 7th of January and New Year’s Eve on the 13th of January.
The Spanish also have a special custom – just in time for the first bell of the new year begins the tradition “twelve grapes of luck”. In order to start the new year with luck, you have to eat one grape each time the bells chime – 12 in total. The origin of this custom dates back to 1909. Due to the grape harvest being so abundant back then, it was decided to repurpose them in this fashion.
The Greeks, too, approach the new year quite traditionally, the so-called Basilius bread is served on New Year’s Eve. Whoever discovers the hidden coin within the bread is in for a particularly happy year. And instead of letting firecrackers pop, gambling is particularly popular among the Greeks. Whoever wins in poker not only receives money, but an extra portion of luck.
In Brazil, on New Year’s Eve, you tend wear white to symbolize purity and peace. Furthermore, women commemorate the fertility goddess Yemanja. For this purpose, flowers are thrown into the sea and little boats loaded with sweets are launched. Likewise in Italy, one believes in the power of color. Red briefs are thought to bring good luck for the new year to both sexes. Otherwise it is celebrated in a similar way to Germany.
As a German, if you want to spend New Year’s Eve in France, you should not be disappointed if all is quiet at 12 o’clock. The New Year is greeted with champagne, in fact fireworks are prohibited in many places. Even in the UK fans of fireworks will be disappointed, but at least there are big organized fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
In China the new year does not begin on December 31, but on February 5, due to another calendar. Similar to our spring cleaning, the whole house is being deep cleaned for this occasion. Furthermore, an hour before midnight, windows are opened to let good luck into the house. Similarly to Brazilians, young Chinese women throw mandarins into the sea, which is supposed to attract future husbands.