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New Year Traditions Around the World

By: Christine Whitfield BA (hons) - Updated: 18 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Tradition New Year Custom Family

New Year's Eve is the time to party. It’s tradition to ring in the New Year with family and friends, a glass of your favourite drink and some music. But that’s not the only tradition. Indeed there are plenty of traditions around the world in other cultures of ushering in the New Year.

Every country and culture has it’s own way of Celebrating New Year and welcoming another 12 months. It’s impossible to look at them all but below are a few examples.

Lentil Eating in Brazil at New Year

In Brazil it is tradition to eat lentils on the first day of the year. This is because lentils are seen as a sign of wealth. Eating them on the first day of the year is thought to bring luck and wealth for the rest of the year.

Children Sing in the New Year in Armenia

In Armenia it is tradition for all of the children in each village to gather and sing songs for the rest of the community. It is also customary to swap presents on New Years Day including fruit and sweets.

The Netherlands New Year: Burn a Christmas Tree

In the Netherlands locals celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of a new one by burning their Christmas trees. The trees are all burnt on big bonfires across the country. It is thought that this practice gets rids of the spirits of the year coming to an end.

Portugal: Grape Eating the New Year in at Midnight

In Portugal it is said that locals eat 12 grapes to signify the 12 months of the year that is beginning. The grapes are eaten at midnight on New Year's Eve. On New Year's Day children call round to neighbours house and sing songs to them. It is customary to give the children treats for doing so.

New Year in Greece

In Greece January 1st is also an important saint’s day so there are double celebrations. January 1st is St Basil’s Day and is often celebrated more than Christmas is with gifts and family get togethers.

New Year, New Clothes in Korea

In Korea on New Year's Eve it is tradition to hang sieves on your front door. This is thought to keep away all the evil spirits of the last year. On New Year's day it is important to wear new clothes. This is said to symbolise a new beginning and a new start.

Letting in the New Year in England

New Year is celebrated in many different ways all over the world but no matter how it is celebrated it is always seen as a new start and a fresh beginning. In England it is customary to have someone “let in” the New Year. To do this they have to be the first person into the house on New Year's Day. It is thought this person should be a young, healthy man in order to bring good luck for the rest of the year. The person letting in the new year will often bring a gift of a piece of coal - to wish warmth on the household. Occasionally the gift will be cake or biscuits - to ensure the household never goes hungry, or salt - to bring wealth.

It's also become traditional throughout the UK (although we think this started in Scotland) - to cross hands and sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight.

Hogmanay in Scotland

Scottish New Year (or Hogmanay) has now become a two day celebration. Hogmanay goes back to pagan practices of worshipping the sun and fire in mid-winter. It was always the main winter feast in Scotland and Christmas day was a working day right up until the 1960s. The Scots have many rituals involved in New Year, but they also have someone to let in the New Year or "First Footing" as it's called.

New Year's Eve is symbolic of new starts but can also be a sad time for those people who have had a particularly upsetting year or who are Lonely or Low. If you are not looking forward to New Year take advantage of the carelines that are set up over the festive season.

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