One country’s traditions are another country’s peculiarities. What might seem perfectly normal to you as a means to celebrate the New Year could be an oddity just one pond over. Carrying around an empty suitcase, an entire nation wearing red underwear, earning broken plates at your front door for being a good friend, these are just a few different ways to celebrate.
Let’s take a look at ten bizarre and distinct ways of celebrating the new year across the globe.
1. Greece: Pomegranates and Good Luck
As the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve in Greece, tradition holds that the first person to walk through someone’s house should be one who bears good luck. They are referred to as the “Pothariko”, meaning “the first foot”. This esteemed individual should have a positive spirit and be lucky. They are a blessing to the house for the New Year. Often, children are chosen to play this role because of their innocence. It is imperative that the right foot be the first to cross through the threshold. Finally, a pomegranate is smashed to the floor while the “Pothariko” wishes for joy and good health for the residents.
2. Spain: The Grape Divide
In an effort to court prosperity and ward off evil for the New Year, Spaniards have an interesting tradition of eating twelve grapes of luck within the first minute of the New Year. A bell tolls every five seconds for this celebratory first minute. Each of the twelve grapes is to be chewed up and swallowed individually before the next ring.
3. Mexico: An Empty Suitcase Equals New Adventures
Should you happen to be in Tijuana for New Year’s Eve, don’t be alarmed if you see Mexicans walking the streets with suitcases that don’t seem to weigh their shoulders down. They are empty. It is a New Year tradition to bring travel and adventure in the coming year. Find yourself an empty suitcase and let fate guide you.
4. Germany: “Dinner for One”
This is a curious one. The eleven-minute-long English comedy sketch “Dinner for One” , produced in 1963, is touted as one of the most globally viewed television programs ever, even though it has little to no cult following in America or the United Kingdom. It is Germany’s tradition to air this sketch every New Year’s Eve, wherever a television can be found. The sketch depicts a ninety-year-old Miss Sophie throwing a birthday party for herself, setting her table for dead friends, as her butler, James, plays the part of all of them. The plot briefly thickens and all of Germany laughs their way into the New Year.
5. Italy: Red Underwear
For Italians, the color red is believed to bring good fortune, summoning the protection of Archangel Michael. Come New Year’s Eve, Italians men and women will all be wearing red underwear for prosperity. I suppose what is fun about this tradition is the fact that someone wearing red underwear more than likely wants someone else to know they are wearing red underwear…
6. Panama: Effigies of Public Figures Burn
For Panama, New Year’s Eve is a time to take inventory of the performance of elected officials, celebrities, and other public figures. Based on these personal assessments, front lawns across the country have effigies to burn in the hopes that the New Year will bring less news of whomever it is they choose to construct a full-scale representation of to set ablaze.
7. Estonia: Eat Twelve Meals in One Day
Estonians believe every meal they eat on New Year’s Eve is the equivalent of one man’s strength for the upcoming year. While seven meals is the common minimum, many men aim for twelve meals in hopes of gaining the strength of twelve men for the following twelve months.
8. Serbia: Christmas on New Year’s Eve
Serbia celebrates New Year’s Eve with Spruce trees and gifts, much like Christmas. Actually, what is New Year’s Eve to many is their Christmas Eve. Their version of Santa Claus, Deda Mraz,visits that night and leaves gifts for all. Following the Julian calendar, they celebrate the New Year on January 13.
9. Finland: Molten Tin Predictions
At midnight of New Year’s Eve, the people of Finland find a random piece of tin and melt it in a horseshoe-shaped ladle. The liquid tin is then dropped in cold water left to form a shape in order to interpret the future of each person’s New Year. For example, a ring shape signifies a wedding, a form similar to a ship indicates travel, and animal shapes each possess various fortune telling attributes.
10. Denmark: Broken Dishes
The people of Denmark have a tradition of throwing plates at other people’s front doors on New Year’s Eve. A broken plate represents good fortune for the coming year. Breaking the plate is a gesture from one friend to the other to indicate they have a loyal friendship. The more broken plates to clean up on January 1st, the better fortune for the New Year.
Featured photo credit: New Year’s Fireworks via emmastrend.com