10 New Year’s Traditions From Across the Globe

4 minute read

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, communities around the world will celebrate the start of 2024 with unique traditions—some more well known than others.

From the famous Times Square ball drop to hanging onions, here are some of the ways different countries ring in the new year. 

Times Square ball drop

Some version of the famous ball has been dropped in Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve since 1907, although the history of using a ball on a pole to notify ship captains of the time dates back to the 1800s.

Nowadays, hundreds of thousands of revelers pack Times Square, waiting for hours before midnight, while an estimated more than one billion people watch the ball drop on TV, according to Times Square’s official website.

The major affair always features high-profile TV presenters and celebrity musicians. This year’s program will be presented by frequent host Ryan Seacrest and his 2024 co-host, singer Rita Ora. It will feature musical performances from Paul Anka, Flo Rida, Megan Thee Stallion, Jelly Roll, Sabrina Carpenter, Tyla and more, the Times Square website said.

Jumping waves and wearing white

In Brazil, revelers often wear white and go to the beach to celebrate the new year. 

At the ocean, some practice the tradition of making offerings to Iemanjá, or Yemanja, an ocean goddess from traditional Afro-Brazilian religions Candomblé and Umbanda. Gifts are placed in boats and pushed into the ocean. Celebrants also traditionally jump over seven waves, thanking Iemanjá for something good that happened in the past year with each wave, and when done, they don’t turn their back on the sea until their feet are out of the water, so as not to receive bad luck.

A couple leaps over the waves on New Year's Eve 2018 on Copacabana Beach, Brazil. Daniel Ramalho—Getty Images

First footing

One tradition in Scotland, where New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay, is “first footing”—literally the first foot to enter someone’s home after midnight. To ensure good luck, the first visitor should traditionally be a tall, dark-haired male bringing pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, a black bun and whiskey.

The party tradition is achieved sometimes in modern times with having one guest leave just before midnight so they can knock on the door as the new year begins, per The Scotsman.

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Ringing bells 108 times

In Japan, Buddhist temples ring bells 108 times on New Year’s Eve. This is because in Buddhism, it is believed that there are 108 types of earthly desires, and each strike of the bell will remove one desire. The tradition is called Joya no Kane. “Jo” means “to throw away the old and move on to the new” and “Ya” means “night,” according to Japan Today.

New Year celebration in Tokyo
People can be seen here ringing a bell 108 times as take part in Joya no Kane while ringing in 2023 in Tokyo. David Mareuil,Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Hanging onions

In Greece, families traditionally go to church on New Year’s Day. After the service, they find an onion that they hang on the doors or in their homes as a symbol of good health, fertility, and longevity.

Finding 12 round fruits

In the Philippines, celebrations feature round items, because it’s believed that roundness symbolizes prosperity. Households pick 12 round fruits for each month of the year. People also fill their pockets with coins, or leave them on tables to attract wealth, and wear polka dots for good luck.

Watching British comedy

Germans, along with some other Europeans, have had the tradition of watching the same black and white British comedy sketch from the 1960s, about a butler serving his 90-year-old employer and her deceased imaginary guests, on New Year’s Eve since 1972, The Guardian reported.

Dinner for One oder Der 90. Geburtstag
The Dinner for One sketch is popular to watch on New Year's Eve in Germany. Siegfried Pilz, United Archives—Getty Images

Taking a suitcase around the block

In some Latin American countries, people walk or run an empty suitcase around the block to bring good luck and manifest more travel in the new year.

Leaping into the new year

Danes literally “jump” into the new year, standing on chairs or couches to leap off when midnight hits. If you forget to jump at midnight, it’s supposed to bring bad luck for the entire new year.

Eating a dozen grapes

Spaniards celebrate the New Year by popping 12 grapes in their mouth, one for each chime of the clock marking midnight, which is supposed to bring good luck for the year ahead. Revelers eat a traditional kind of thin-skinned, pale green grape, which is harvested late in November or December. The tradition dates back more than a century.

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