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New Year’s Traditions Around the World

RWC tutor Jack Stewart gives New Year's traditions celebrated by countries around the world.

Everyone is familiar with the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in New York City. Thousands gather to ring in the New Year by watching a giant metallic sphere drop from a high height. However, this article is going to examine some of the lesser-known traditions observed around the world on or around New Year’s Day.

China - Cleaning the House

In China, there are strict superstitions and traditions surrounding ringing in the New Year. Although cleaning is a big part of traditions, one is not supposed to sweep on New Year’s day. Or at least, if one does, it is considered bad luck to throw away any of the sweepings outside the house, as this would be removing the good fortune from your house.

Russia- Burning and Drinking Wishes

Like many of these traditions, I struggled to find an explanation for this one. In Russia, there is a big emphasis on wishes on traditions and superstition. At New Year’s, some folks make a tradition of writing their wish for the new year on paper. It doesn’t stop there then. You must then burn said paper and drop it into a glass of champagne. But thats not all! You must then drink said champagne if you want that wish to come true.

Denmark - Throwing Old Plates

In Denmark, folks save their unused and unwanted plates throughout the year, for a very special purpose. On December 31st, they go around to all their friends houses and throw plates and other dishes at their friends doors. While this might seem like an attack of some sort, the breaking of dishes is meant to symbolize an end to any ill will, squashing the beef of sorts. In fact, the more porcelain you have accumulated at your doorstep on the first day of the New Year, the more friends you have!

Mexico- Tamales

Most of us have probably seen or tasted tamales in the course of our lives. However, the holiday season is a special time for these delicious treats. The tradition revolves around making them as much as it does eating them. The process of making tamales takes a lot of effort from making the masa, spreading it onto corn leaves and finaly steaming them. As such, making the tamales is often a communal effort, the perfect time to chat and laugh with family and loved ones.

Ireland and Scotland - First Person Across the Threshold

This isn’t exactly a tradition but more of a superstition. In Ireland and Scotland the first person to cross your house’s threshold after the clock strikes midnight is said to be an omen for the year to come. The story goes, if a dark-haired man crosses your threshold you will have good luck and prospertity for the rest of the year. However, if a fair-haired person crosses the threshold, it could spell doom and bad luck. Some speculate that this superstition dates from the time of the vikings, when a fair haired person at your doorstep might be a sign of a viking invasion.

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