Following on from my recent very serious research into Christmas dinner around the world, I volunteered to take on another assignment and investigate different countries traditions for welcoming in the New Year. Never let it be said that I’m afraid to take on the tough jobs…
I don’t know about you but most of my fondest New Year’s Eve memories involve being with my best friends and under the influence of at least a beer or two. We’ve never been the sort of friends to worry too much about finding the coolest party of seeing in midnight at the fanciest venue.
It doesn’t really matter where we happen to find ourselves or what’s going on. The thing that’s always made New Year’s a highlight of the year is that we’re together again, usually laughing.
All very sentimental but not exactly the most groundbreaking thing to read about. Luckily though, my painstaking research has uncovered some far more fascinating New Year’s traditions from countries and cultures around the world.
Here are five of my favourites.
Having a smashing time in Denmark!
Every January 1st there’s a bit of cleaning up to do after the night before. And if you’re unlucky, that might involve sweeping away the wreckage of the odd smashed glass and a dropped plate or two.
But in Denmark, having no smashed crockery to tidy up would mean you were at risk of having a bad time in the coming year. You see, a traditional Danish New Year’s sees people smashing old plates and glasses against the front doors for their friends and neighbours to drive out bad spirits.
And at midnight, everyone stands on chairs and literally jumps into January together (and hopefully not into any shards of glass or dinnerware).
Banishing bad vibes with bread in Ireland
Ireland is a country steeped in traditions and superstitions. And New Year’s is no different. Like their European cousins the Danes, the Irish have a tradition aimed at driving out bad spirits for the year ahead.
Unlike the Danes, this Irish don’t need to do quite so much tidying up afterwards either, because instead of smashing plates on front doors, they bang the walls of their houses with bread.
As well as forcing out the bad this tradition is meant to invite in good luck and ensure that the coming year will be a year of plenty.
Settling scores in Peru
Usually if your New Year’s celebrations include a fist fight, it’s a sign that something has gone a little wrong. Not so for people taking part in the Takanakuy festivities in Chumbivilcas Province, Peru. Taking place on December 25th, the festival sees people come together to settle old disputes so that the next year can begin as a clean slate.
People meet at the church for a communal breakfast and then there’s a musical procession in which the prospective fighters wear one of five traditional costumes.
The fights themselves take place with someone stepping into the middle of a circle and naming the person they’d like to settle a score with. Bouts end with both fighters shaking hands or hugging and then mattes are considered settled. Everyone comes back together for more celebratory drinks and dancing.
Casting molten metal predictions in Finland
A lot of people spend at least a little time on New Year’s Eve contemplating what the next twelve months might have in store for them.
In Finland this tradition of prediction has its own special ceremony involving molten metal. Everyone is given a small piece of tin cast into the shape of a horseshoe. Each person’s tin horseshoe is then melted down and the liquid metal poured immediately into cold water.
The resulting cast is then analysed to make predictions about the person’s life in the coming year. Different shapes and shadows are believed to contain indications about the chances for good luck, health, wealth and happiness. The thing to avoid is a cast that breaks into pieces. That’s believed to be an omen of a bad year to come.
Packing your backs for fun in Colombia
Aptly for an article that’s seen us go all over the globe, this final tradition is followed by people in Colombia hoping to have a year filled with travel and adventure.
Getting involved is very simple; at midnight aspiring jetsetters take a suitcase – which can be symbolically packed for the journey or totally empty – on a walk around the block. With that accomplished, it’s time to grab your passport and start planning some trips…
So there you go, five charmingly fascinating New Year’s traditions from around the world. Don’t forget to take a look at our Wise(ish) Words for 2019 book if you want to create a guide to your favourite festive traditions or share some of your wise(ish) words for next year.
All that’s left for me to do is to wish you, on behalf of everyone at The Book of Everyone, a very happy New Year.