It’s official: 2016 is drawing to a close. While New Year’s celebrations around the world almost universally involve fireworks and drinking, many places have their own intriguing local traditions as well. Here’s a look at some interesting ways that people around the world are welcoming in 2017:
The Scottish New Year’s celebration is called Hogmanay. This is an ancient festival with roots that go back to the pre-Christian era. Many Hogmanay customs are designed to provide celebrants with good luck in the coming year. For example, the “first-foot,” or the first person to enter the house after the clock strikes midnight, brings gifts for the household. In some regions, this person is believed to bring good or bad fortune depending on their physical characteristics, with “tall, dark and handsome” men being preferred.
Fire is another traditional part of Hogmanay celebrations. For example, in Stonehaven, people build fireballs by wrapping chicken wire around flammable substances like paper. Then, they run through the town to the sea, swinging the fireballs over their heads until they go out or until they reach the water’s edge.
According to Travel + Leisure, one popular Danish New Year’s tradition is for everyone to jump off chairs at the stroke of midnight. Per Wikipedia, it’s also traditional to throw old dishes at your friends’ houses on New Year’s Eve, but according to this article that tradition is no longer practiced. Any Danes want to weigh in?
In Ecuador, people celebrate the New Year by burning effigies called Años Viejos. These figures are often dressed to resemble unpopular politicians and stuffed with firecrackers. Another custom, this one brought over from Spain, is that of eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight, making a wish as you eat each one.
On New Year’s Eve, Mexican families make a list of all the bad things that happened during the old year. After midnight, the lists are burned in a bonfire to signal a fresh start. Just as in Ecuador, Mexicans also participate in the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight.
In Japan, it is customary to send postcards called nengajō to friends and relatives. The postcards are sent in December to arrive on or near New Year’s Day. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Buddhist temples all across the country ring their bells 108 times to cleanse the people listening to them of the 108 worldly desires described in Buddhism.