20 New Year’s Traditions to Start the Year Off Right
Take inspiration from these New Year's traditions from around the world and have your best (and luckiest) year yet!
New Year’s traditions to kick off 2023
At the end of each year, we change our calendars, make resolutions, plan fun New Year’s Eve party ideas, and reflect on the previous 52 weeks. Cultures all over the world have different New Year’s 2023 traditions that help them start the next year on the right foot—and you bet you can celebrate them in your own home. For some extra good fortune in 2023, give these unique (and lucky) New Year’s traditions a try. For more New Year’s entertainment, check out these New Year’s movies that will help you ring in the holiday.
In every household, there are some dishes, plates, and cups that, while perfectly acceptable, somehow never get used. People in Denmark know how to put them to good use. Tradition says you should—affectionately!—shatter them against the doors of your friends’ homes to ward off bad spirits and welcome happier vibes in the chaos. If you’re looking to start the New Year with a laugh, check out these New Year’s jokes that will have you giggling into 2023.
Throw water on your friends
Make sure to wear your swimsuit if you’re ringing in the New Year in Thailand. We’re not talking about December 31, when lantern festivals freckle the country, but rather the Songkran Festival from April 13 to 15 for the Thai New Year. The tradition is drenched with goodwill: The act of pouring water over someone is seen as a sign of respect and good wishes for the year ahead and symbolizes washing away bad luck. If you don’t want to throw water on your friends, you can always play New Year’s Eve games instead.
Throw furniture out the window
Keep your eyes up if you’re touring South Africa for New Year’s Eve. It’s not confetti that falls from the skies but, um, furniture that catapults to the ground. Though this is not a widely adopted practice throughout the country, certain areas believe the physical act of tossing unused goods from a window sends a signal to the universe that you have let go of past grievances and are hopeful for the future. Don’t forget to check out these hilarious New Year’s memes for a good laugh.
Be picky about your first houseguest
Who is the first person to knock on your door on January 1? If it’s a deliveryman greeting you with greasy takeout to cure that champagne hangover, you’d better hope he’s a good person. In Scotland, Isle of Man, and some regions of Northern England, firstfooting is practiced and trusted. Here, locals seek out a tall, dark man to be the first person to enter their homes in the New Year. He’s often carrying specific gifts—like salt, shortbread, or whiskey—to bless the home with good luck for the next 12 months. Give this person a New Year’s wish as they walk through the door and you’re good to go!
Burn away your grievances
In Ecuador, locals celebrate Los Años Viejos, which translates to “the old years,” a New Year’s tradition focused on destroying past demons. You’ll see many locals create dolls that resemble scarecrows, some decorated with signs, descriptions of their sins, or images of sinister people. As the clock hits midnight and celebrations begin, the front yard creations (which could double as outdoor New Year’s Eve decorations) are lit on fire, symbolizing the fiery, smoky embers of one year and inviting good spirits to circle in the new.
Eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds
You better come hungry for the New Year’s Eve celebration you were invited to in Spain if you want to earn the good graces of locals. Spaniards subscribe to the superstition that the last 12 seconds of the year can determine your fate for the next year, all dependent on how many grapes you can chow down on in a short period of time. The idea is to eat one grape for each chime of the midnight bell. Finish all 12 to earn good luck for the coming year. Here are more New Year’s Eve food traditions believed to bring good luck.
Find 12 round fruits
For a favorable fortune in the Philippines, it’s not size or color or texture that matters but rather shape. Avoid rectangles and triangles in this New Year’s tradition and instead be on the lookout for anything circular in fashion. The idea is that circles represent coins and bring wealth, so the more circles you can collect, the better. Most locals will attempt to get to 12 round fruits, each representing a month of the year. Another interesting New Year’s food tradition: eating pork and sauerkraut.
It’s no secret that Brazil likes to party, but when it comes to New Year’s, it’s less about the glittery minidresses and sequined skirts. Instead, for a year that promises luck, wonder, and adventure, your outfit only needs to have one characteristic: white! If you need some words of inspiration for the New Year, check out these New Year quotes that will inspire a fresh start.
Lug around an empty suitcase
While you might steal a New Year’s kiss from your partner at the stroke of midnight, if you’re in Colombia, you’d better be wearing your running shoes. Many Colombians will run around their block as fast as they can while toting an empty suitcase. Legend says if you’re in good spirits and do this the right way (perhaps without tripping?), your next lap around the sun will guarantee at least one traveling adventure. By the way, here’s what “auld lang syne” means in case you hear people singing it on New Year’s Eve.
Ring a bell 108 times
For those ringing in the start of a new 365 days in Japan, listen for the bells at midnight. Here, tradition dictates that Buddhist temples ring bells 108 times, based on the belief that it brings cleanness. And no, the tradition isn’t referring to the junk drawer you should have cleaned out a decade ago; it focuses on a cleansed heart, mind, soul, and body. The concept is called joya no kane, and the reasoning behind the specific number is attributed to the 108 types of earthly desires humans are thought to have. The ringing of bells is said to help you leave your old, sad, or frustrated self behind and enter the new year with a clear mind and happier resolutions. Don’t forget to check out the best New Year’s resolution, according to your zodiac sign.
Sip soup for the soul
There’s nothing like a hot bowl of soup to warm the soul in the winter, but South Korea’s tteokguk, a dish made of broth, rice cakes, meat, and vegetables, is imperative to the country’s New Year’s traditions. South Korean New Year, known as Seollal, usually falls in late January or early February, and the soup is believed to bring those who eat it good luck in the new year.
This one feels festive but messy. In Turkey, locals smash pomegranates on their doorways for New Year. The belief is that your good fortune in the coming year is directly proportional to the number of seeds that fly out of the fruit upon impact. So put some aggression behind that throw!
Cast some metal
If you’re feeling crafty, make like the Finnish and cast molten tin into water. To predict what is to come in the year ahead, locals carefully inspect the shape the tin takes once it has hardened. An animal might mean there will be an abundance of food, while a heart could forecast love in the coming year.
Eat a sugar pig
Germans believe that pigs equal wealth, so for New Year’s, it’s commonplace to eat glücksschwein, pig-shaped marzipan candies that are both adorable and sweet. They’re thought to bring financial luck for the year ahead.
Toss a coin
It might seem counterintuitive to literally throw your money away, but in Romania, that’s exactly what they do for good luck at the start of a new year. Don’t worry—they aren’t emptying their bank accounts. But it’s believed that tossing a coin in a river will bring luck throughout the year.
Bake coins into sweets
Bolivia has a sweet (and profitable) New Year’s tradition. Coins are baked into cakes for a festive activity. The person who receives the slice with the coin is thought to have a prosperous year ahead.
Move over, pasta. It’s lentils that take center stage on New Year’s in Italy. These legumes are thought to bring good luck for the coming 365 days, thanks to the fact that they resemble coins. The lentils are typically paired with pork sausage, a fatty meat rich in flavor that also evokes a prosperous sentiment.
Wash away bad luck
The Burmese take part in Thingyan, a water festival that happens at the start of their New Year, which occurs in April. It symbolizes washing away any bad luck they may have previously experienced. During the Buddhist holiday, the streets of Myanmar (aka Burma) are busy with revelers basking in sprinklers to ensure plenty of good fortune in the future.
Eat seven meals
If you think Thanksgiving consists of a gluttonous meal, wait until you hear what Estonians do for good luck on New Year’s Eve. Their tradition is to eat at least seven meals on December 31 (though some consume even more). According to custom, this means that they will harness the strength of seven men in the year ahead. Plus, if you celebrate with a bounty of food, the abundance is thought to carry into the next rotation around the sun.
Bang bread against the walls
Forget coming together to break bread; the Irish believe in banging their carbs against the walls on New Year’s. The act is supposed to chase away bad luck and evil spirits, enabling good luck to be invited in. It’s also believed that this will help bring a bounty of bread and food in the coming year.
Next, find out which stores are open on New Year’s Day.
- University Post: “Seven Danish New Year traditions”
- The Atlantic: “The Joyful Splashing of Thailand’s Songkran Water Festival”
- Slate: “Start the New Year Off Right With Scotland’s “First Footing””
- Life in Ecuador: “Ecuador New Years Eve”
- Food Republic: “12 Grapes At Midnight: Spain’s Great New Year’s Eve Tradition, and Superstition”
- Tagalog Lang: “New Year’s Eve in the Philippines”
- New Year’s Brazil: “New Year’s Traditions in Rio, Brazil”
- See Colombia: “The 7 Best Colombian New Year’s Traditions”
- Japan Today: “Japanese New Year: Traditions, countdowns and fireworks”
- Culture Trip: “11 New Year’s Eve Food Traditions From Around The World That Will Make Your Mouth Water”